Study finds children 'no less happy in single-parent homes'

Date: Apr 29, 2014

There is no doubt that a divorce has some impact on the children that are involved. The routine changes as well as perhaps living in a different house all have the potential to disturb the mental wellbeing of children.

This said, a new study from UK researchers has found kids that live with a single parent are just as happy as those living in a home with a mother and father.

The study conducted by Natcen looked at data taken by the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) from 2008. The Millennium Cohort study is tracking the development of children born in 2000 and 2001 and, in 2008, asked the 12,877 then seven-year-olds a simple question.

"How often do you feel happy?"

The response was not what researchers had expected. Of the children living in single parent families, 36 per cent said they were happy "all the time". The other 64 per cent said they were happy "sometimes or never".

When researchers asked the same question to children in other family units, the results were surprisingly exactly the same.

It is important to note that even when other factors were taken out of the equation such as socio-economic background or income, the results did not show any significant differences.

Jenny Chanfreau, a senior researcher at NatCen, said at the British Sociological Association's annual conference earlier this month as long as the family at home was settled and the relationships were good, the family structure did not matter to the child's happiness.

"Getting on well with siblings, having fun with the family at weekends and having a parent who reported rarely or never shouting when the child was naughty were all linked with a higher likelihood of being happy," she said.

"Pupil relations at school are also important - being bullied at school or being 'horrible' to others was strongly associated with lower happiness in the seven-year-olds, for instance."

Divorce can be an emotional time for all, especially children, which is why you should remember some key points for breaking the news to them.

  • Make sure both parties are present when the kids are told.
  • Be open to a range of difficult questions and have the answers to share.
  • If the kids are old enough, let them have a say in proceedings. E.g. Where they will live.
  • Give them time to process the news and remind them it doesn't change the way you feel about them and isn't their fault.

Parents who have decided to get a divorce should get in contact with a family lawyer who can help with the paperwork and legality of proceedings. A lawyer can also assist with child custody agreements.