The impact of family breakdown on mental health of fathers

Two studies published in a special issue of the Psychreg Journal of Psychology demonstrate the impact of family breakdown on paternal mental health caused both by serious partner abuse of men and restrictions on contact with children.  The studies were based on research carried out with users of services provided by Families Need Fathers in England and Both Parents Matter Cymru in Wales.

“Loneliness, impaired well-being, and partner abuse victimisation of separated fathers in Wales” by Richard Bradford of the University Bristol applied measures of mental wellbeing and social/emotional isolation to a cohort of fathers seeking support from the Welsh charity.  Wellbeing was found to be strongly degraded and loneliness severely increased in this cohort compared with the general population. The fathers’ risk from domestic abuse was the variable most strongly associated with these factors along with a separate indication of depression/suicidality.

“Child contact problems and family court issues are related to chronic mental health problems for men following family breakdown” by John Barry and Louise Liddon  surveyed the experience over 12 months of 29 men who had separated from their partners.  These men experienced 358 stressful experiences related to child contact issues and 229 stressful experiences related to family court issues. The implications of these findings for the long-term mental and physical health and the need for swift resolution of court processes are discussed.

These studies show the chronic mental turmoil that many men experience in the months and years after their family comes apart, particularly when they have to go to court in order to see their children.  Although Scotland has a completely different family court system and associated services, it is very likely that similar findings would be made in this country.  These findings add to the case for providing far more support to separating families to assist them in issue resolution and co-operative parenting outside of the court.