How are the children of separated parents doing?

Many Quebec children experience the separation of their parents. How are they?

May 24, 2022 |In Quebec, many children see their parents separate. Some experiment with joint custody or live in a blended family. How are these children doing? Three researchers take stock.

According to data from the Statistical Institute of Quebec, 40% of children born in Quebec at the end of the 1990s experienced the separation of their parents before the age of 17. In addition, the number of children in shared custody is increasing and this arrangement is particularly important in the province. Furthermore, 16% of Quebec families are blended.

However, little is known about the experiences of the children who grow up in these families. As part of the 89e Acfas Congress, three researchers presented the results of their studies, which allows us to know a little more.

The well-being of children after separation

Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques is director of the research partnership Parental Separation, Family Recomposition at Université Laval. She analyzed data from a survey of 1,470 parents who had been separated for an average of 21 months.

Overall, the majority of the children are doing very well,” she points out. This is true for all the aspects analyzed, be it health, happiness, the way the child experiences the transitions between households, behavioral problems or school adjustment. Nevertheless, 30% of children reach a threshold considered problematic either foranxietyor for antisocial behavior.

“We managed to distinguish three profiles of children,” adds Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques. The first profile corresponds to those who are doing very well and includes 67% of them. The second profile includes 7% of children and these are considered to be in great difficulty. Among them, 80% have a problematic level of anxiety and more than 50% have behavioral problems. Finally, the third group represents 26% of children. These experience the transitions between households more with difficulty, but are happy most of the time.

Among the characteristics that can influence the well-being of the child according to the researcher, we find his age, the fact that his parent lives alone or in a couple without children, the quality of the parent-child relationship and the conflicts between his parents. .

Relationships in Shared Custody Families

Amandine Baude, researcher at the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, looked at the well-being of children in shared custody by analyzing the situation of 534 parents of children aged 3 to 12 who had been separated for less than 24 months.

“The trends that emerge show that relationship dynamics are still going well,” she notes. Conflicts between parents are infrequent and arrangements are quite flexible. The quality of the relationship between the child and the parents is good, even excellent. Less than 10% of parents whose child is in shared custody report that transitions between households are conflictual. »

The study also revealed that nearly 20% of parents are more vulnerable in their relationships. Thus, 11% of respondents have developed conflicting relationships with the other parent and 8% report experiencing relationship problems with their child.

The relationship between parents and in-laws

Marion Adamiste, a doctoral student in psychology at Laval University, met with 15 blended couples to understand how parents and in-laws coordinate with each other regarding the education and well-being of children.

She thus highlighted three different functionings in these families.. The first group corresponds to families that function cohesively, that is, parents and in-laws support each other and there is little conflict. “It is mainly communication that is put forward in these families, explains the doctoral student. There is mutual respect from each member of the team. Having similar visions of education helps a lot. »

In the second group, she observes much more conflict between the child’s two families. “Parents have a very different perception in terms of education and each person’s commitment, which creates a lot of tension,” emphasizes Marion Adamiste. In these families, it is mainly the parents who will invest themselves with the child, and the parents-in-law are a little more withdrawn.

Finally, in the third group, functioning is unbalanced. This means that one of the parents is left out or has little involvement. The step-parent will therefore be more committed. “So we wanted to know what causes the other parent to be behind in the child’s education,” she adds. In some cases, the other parent may have a busy job that they prioritize over their family. Having substance abuse or mental health problems can also explain this dynamic. »


Source : Acfas


Kathleen Couillard – Born and grown

Photo: GettyImages/wanderluster

How are the children of separated parents doing?