It’s often thought that staying together ‘for the children’ is the correct course of action when a couple with children find their partnership begin to strain.
But new data seems to show that children raised by a single parent, or by a step parent, are not significantly more or less happy than children raised in a stable marriage. In fact, the researchers report that exactly the same levels of happiness are reported by children in any of those three living situations.
This information comes from the Millennium Cohort Study, an investigation into the lifestyles of children born in the years 2000 to 2001. It was revealed and discussed at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference at the University of Leeds last week.
The results of the study were drawn from 12,877 children, an unusual large sample size, which strengthens the reliability of the conclusions drawn. Each of the children involved were counted in three separate groups – those living with step, single or biological parents.
Regarding specific data, 36 per cent of children who were asked about their satisfaction with life stated that they were ‘happy all the time,’ while 64 per cent said they were happy ‘sometimes or never’. What is most interesting is that these results were reportedly ‘exactly the same’ across all three groups.
The researchers conclude that the classification of a child’s relationship with a carer is not nearly as important as the quality of the bond itself.
Jenny Chanfreau, Senior Researcher at NatCen Social Research, said, ‘It’s the quality of the relationships in the home that matters – not the family composition. 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 all the time.’
Those who conducted the study say that other independent variables that could affect happiness, such as social class or deprivation of the area where the children lived, were accounted for. The data was collected from British seven year olds in 2008.
As a consequence of this study, some may now start to question the conventional wisdom that remaining in an unsatisfying partnership is necessary in order to safeguard children’s happiness. A family solicitor in Cardiff may therefore not be ruled out quite so hastily
The conclusions of the research make it clear that while divorce, separation or even re-marriage are not obstacles to a child’s happiness, it is vital for the person or people with custody of a child to maintain strong relationships with them.