In "Children in Changing Families, Life after Parental Separation", Jan Pryor and Brian Rodgers research the many answers to the question of how our children are faring in response to family change. They compare research studies from Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand
The existence of, and understandings about, family change are divided usefully into conservative and liberal views which assists in situating the divergence of thinking about effects on children. For instance a conservative view would say that divorce needs to be made harder to protect families, "equating family change with family decline", whereas the liberal view would say that "divorce liberates many adults and children from punitive, unhappy family situations" (p.7).
The book covers wide-ranging issues that affect children as their families change, with research and discussion about separation, lone parents (both mothers and fathers), stepfamilies and the effects of multiple transitions. The discussions carefully draw on relevant studies from each country.
The findings are a useful reference in the areas that need attention for children (by parents, counsellors etc) to minimise the risk of negative effects of family transitions. As Pryor and Rodgers write:
Undoubtedly, parental separation constitutes a risk for children, but the evidence suggests that that it is not the major risk factor. Children are not necessarily harmed by family transitions, but neither are transitions benign, risk-free events. (p.73) I appreciated a chapter dedicated to fathers in families and the reason given for this when there was not one for mothers. There has been much emotive writing and "talk" of the role of fathers and this discussion of research findings is a useful one that unsurprisingly concludes that it is not their presence per se but the quality of their fathering that is important, as is the case for parenting generally.
The mere presence of fathers, though, is not enough. Children benefit from having them in their lives when the relationship is positive, supportive, and involved, and this is true whether parents are together or apart. Conversely, negative, intrusive, and abusive father-child relations are not good for children, regardless of family structure. (p.203) The book is very readable, making it accessible and useful both to parents and to those involved with these families, including...