Reducing Parental Conflict Hub
This hub is for local leaders, commissioners, practitioners and researchers who are looking to reduce the impact of parental conflict on children. It provides a central repository of key 'what works' evidence and tools, including why parental conflict matters for children's outcomes, and guidance on how to take action. The hub will continue to grow as new evidence and tools are created.
There is strong evidence that conflict between parents – whether together or separated – can have a significant negative impact on children's mental health and long-term life-chances. Not all conflict is damaging, but where this is frequent, intense and poorly resolved it can harm children's outcomes.
The government's Improving Lives strategy introduced a new focus on tackling the impact of parental conflict on children, with the aim that this will become mainstream, alongside support for parenting. As part of this work, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is leading a national Reducing Parental Conflict Programme to embed evidence-based support to tackle parental conflict in local areas.
What is the problem?
Strong scientific evidence shows that conflict between parents can affect multiple outcomes for children, including emotional, behavioural, social and academic development. Parents in poverty or under economic pressure are more likely to experience relationship conflict. DWP estimates that 11% of all children, and 28% of children in workless families, have parents in a distressed relationship. We have collaborated with Professor Gordon Harold and his team at the University of Sussex on a number of pioneering evidence reviews.
Groundbreaking review of the scientific evidence on how interparental relationships affects outcomes for children, and the interventions designed to address this.
What Works review on how poverty and economic stress affect parental relationships and in turn child outcomes, and interventions for families in or at risk of poverty.
Understand the evidence base that supports the government's 'Improving Lives' policy for workless families, including how parental conflict can be a root cause of multiple disadvantage.
Why does it matter?
Addressing couple conflict and the quality of parental relationships is a critical component of improving outcomes for children. Parenting interventions for families in the context of ongoing parental conflict are unlikely to be effective or improve outcomes for children.
Learn why action to tackle parental conflict matters for children and families who are in or at risk of poverty, and how to prioritise this in local service delivery.
Understand the links between poverty and parental conflict. Economic pressure impacts parents' mental health, causing parental conflict and difficulties with parenting, which in turn impact upon child outcomes.
Learn about the government's proposals to address parental conflict when supporting workless families with multiple disadvantages, building on initiatives such as the Local Family Offer.
Where do I start?
There is a need to increase the availability of relationship support provision in the UK and to embed a focus on reducing parental conflict in local systems and services. But as a new policy area, local areas need support on where to start. A range of tools and guides exist to help.
Interactive guide and practical planning tool for local areas using the best available research and practice evidence on how to reduce the impact of parental conflict on children.
Prototype tool to help commissioners and front-line practitioners to better understand multiple disadvantage including parental conflict, and what action can be taken.
While there is strong evidence that parental conflicts impacts child outcomes, the evidence about interventions and what works is still at an early stage. The majority of interventions with robust evidence come from outside the UK and many have not yet collected evidence on how they improve child (rather than parent or couple) outcomes. However, a growing number of interventions have either been shown to work or are building their evidence-base.
EIF's flagship Guidebook provides information on programmes that have been assessed against our evidence standards and found to have evidence of improving child outcomes.
Provides a wider set of programmes related to parental conflict that are not on EIF's Guidebook, because they have not yet been assessed or are at the early stages of building their evidence.
Understand EIF's evidence ratings and what they tell you about a programme's impact on child outcomes. What is 'strength of evidence', and what does each rating mean?
Advice on how to use EIF's evidence ratings in commissioning, including why a programme may not work in different contexts and why those with lower ratings are important for innovation.
Preparing the workforce
Supporting practitioners to identify relationship problems early and refer families to the right interventions is essential in tackling parental conflict. Embedding relationship support in mainstream services, such as children's centres or health visiting, or targeting transition points for families, such as new parenthood or separation, can be a way to identify families before relationship difficulties escalate. Learn more about how you can prepare and equip your local workforce.
EIF's Ben Lewing shares learning from local areas on why it is important for frontline practitioners to start asking about relationships.
How innovative local areas are training frontline practitioners, from school staff to social workers and health visitors, to talk about and support parents around relationships.
See examples of workforce training currently available in the UK on parental relationships. EIF has not reviewed the evidence on the effectiveness of this training.
Lessons from local authority pioneers on how to develop local systems of support to improve parental relationships, captured by the Innovation Unit and OnePlusOne.
What services are there?
Relationship support is underdeveloped and not easily available across the UK, with a patchwork of largely uncoordinated provision. The voluntary sector is the main provider of relationship support services but operates in an unstable funding environment. Current provision ranges from formal specialist support such as counselling and mediation, to more generic services such as health visiting, which are not explicitly defined as relationship support but may touch on relationship issues.
A summary of the different kinds of relationship support services. Some focus on improving child outcomes and others focus on the couple/parent relationship.
An analysis of the availability of relationship support services for families in or at risk of poverty in five case-study areas, including gaps in support.
See the findings from our rapid review of literature to find out what has been done to map the nature and extent of relationship support provision in the UK.
Reflections from EIF national conference: can supporting couple relationships improve children's life chances?
How local areas are embedding relationship support into services such as children's centres and citizen's advice.
How will I know if I made a difference?
The UK evidence-base on what works to reduce the impact of parental conflict on children is a relatively early stage. As a new policy field it is critical that evaluation is part of any plans to develop or commission relationship support services. Without a suitable evaluation you won't really know if or why new services have worked or had an impact. Read about how you can start evaluating your services and learn from previous evaluations.
Read about how different local areas have put evaluations in place to capture learning on early intervention and its impact on children and families.
Understand how to measure outcomes for families you work with, in this short guide by Tavistock Relationships.
Independent evaluation of relationship education to new parents in NHS antenatal classes and home visits.