Data to understand the lives of separated families

This project will assess the adequacy of current and planned future data to answer a range of questions about the lives of separating and separated families, and make recommendations for the design of any future data collection needed. 

While family separation is common in Britain, our understanding of its correlates and consequences is limited: the available data are piecemeal and sometimes dated. Policy makers, interest groups, researchers and practitioners across disciplines have to ‘make do’ when trying to understand the lives of separating and separated families and the impact of government policies. Limitations of the existing data infrastructure preclude a holistic view of how both separation and policy affect families and individuals across various socio-emotional and financial dimensions.

This study would (1) articulate what we need to know about family separation (2) aim to identify in detail where the current and planned (administrative, survey and qualitative) data infrastructure can and cannot provide the required evidence and (3) map out what the ideal data infrastructure would look like and how it might be supported. If the current data infrastructure is found lacking, it will specify the design of a longitudinal survey to provide the required breadth and depth of robust data on family separation.

Project details



Caroline Bryson, BPSR

Susan Purdon, BPSR

Amy Skipp, NatCen

Professor Liz Trinder, University of Exeter

Professor Anne Barlow, University of Exeter

Funding Programme

Children and Families

Grant amount and duration


June 2014 - November 2015

Workshop presentation (Sept. 2014)

Workshop presentation (Sept. 2014)


Understanding the lives of separating and separated parents in the UK: What evidence do we need? 

Summary report (PDF)

Full report (PDF)