Sharing My Parents: research findings

“I went to a school counsellor, and I hated it and never went back, um and then I just kind of talked to my mum”. 

Shared Parenting Scotland has published Sharing my Parents the findings of a research project into the experience and reflections of young people who experienced the break up of their parents’ relationship during their childhood.

The research was carried out by Glasgow University psychology undergraduate, Jamie Wark, during  a paid intern placement with Shared Parenting Scotland last summer. The placement was funded by the Robertson Trust.

The research and report break new ground in Scotland by asking young people directly about the effect on their own life of parental separation.

A key finding from the study was the lack of support available to  young people struggling with their new arrangements post-separation.

One participant said that she couldn’t talk to her parents about issues arising from the  split, and didn’t even feel able to discuss issues about the parental separation with her sister even though both were experiencing the same turmoil. They only felt free to talk when they were older and had left home.

Several participants indicated that they had to subordinate their own feelings to that of the parent they lived with most of the time. One said,  “I would have liked to have visited my dad more but I was often a bit worried that it would upset my mum as my dad left my mum for someone else.”

Jamie circulated an online survey around Glasgow students including separate questions for those with and without separated parents.  He then conducted focus groups and interviews to explore these issues further.

Of the young people whose parents had separated, 83% of time was spent with their mother, although 70% of participants indicated that they wished they could have spent more time with their father after the separation.

Jamie presented the results of his study to members of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Shared Parenting.

Shared Parenting Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, said, “This research was, inevitably, small scale but it has great significance by speaking to young people whose experience is relatively recent and for the first time in Scotland listening to what they say. Theirs has been a voice missing from the many discussions and debate about how to deal with arrangements for children when their parents no longer live together. It will help legislators and professionals and, most importantly, separated parents themselves if they take time to listen to what these young people say. Jamie is to be congratulated for his ground breaking work.”