Recollections of contact issues from young adults

This study is based on the recollections of a random sample of just under 400 young adults (aged between 18 and 35) who took part in a telephone survey, and in-depth interviews with 50 of them. It has enabled the considered and dispassionate reflections from children affected by contact arrangements to be included in the debate about post-separation contact for the first time. 

Main findings
  • Key ingredients in successful contact include the absence of parental conflict; a good pre-separation relationship between the child and the (future) non-resident parent; the non-resident parent demonstrating his/her commitment to the child and the child being consulted about the arrangements.
  • The continuity of contact, and its quality, are more important to successful contact than its frequency and there is no optimal level of contact.
  • The child’s pre-separation relationship with the non-resident parent predict both the quality of contact and the child’s relationship with the non-resident parent through childhood and into adulthood.
  • Resident parents were much more likely to have actively encouraged contact than to have undermined it.
  • Children of separating parents develop a mature insight into their own needs and should be consulted far more routinely over arrangements for their future. Coercing them into arrangements they dislike is unlikely to be in their short or long-term best interests.
  • It was rare for respondents to blame the resident parent for contact not happening or being disrupted. Most respondents said that this had been the responsibility of the non-resident parent or that it had been their own decision.
  • Child contact after parental separation or divorce has become a contentious and highly politicised issue. This project will inform the development of policy and practice by documenting the views of young adults, aged between 18 and 30, who experienced parental separation in their youth.
  • Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that the proposed change in the law -  to introduce a presumption that the involvement of both parents in the life of the child will further the child’s welfare - should not proceed.