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Inter-Parental conflict and outcomes for children in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure

In 2016 the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), in collaboration with Professor Gordon Harold and Dr Ruth Sellers, published What Works to Enhance Interparental Relationships and Improve Outcomes for Children. Our work explored the role of the relationship between parents (regardless of whether they are together or separated) and outcomes for children and showed that family relationships are crucial to healthy child development and children’s long-term life chances.

We have been commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to extend this work, by carrying out a review of ‘Inter-parental conflict and outcomes for children in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure’. The aims of our work are to:

• Summarise the latest scientific research about the links between poverty, economic pressure, family processes and outcomes for children, specifically in relation to the role that inter-parental conflict plays for child and adolescent development.

• Employ systematic review methods to examine the evidence on the effectiveness of interventions implemented in the UK and internationally which aim to improve the inter-parental relationship and outcomes for children from families in or at risk of poverty.

We provide a review of the evidence on discord between parents (inter-parental conflict) in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure and the link to poor outcomes for children and adolescents across emotional, behavioural, social, academic and future relationship domains.

In our work we define inter-parental relationships as relating to both intact and separated couples with children, with a focus on relationship behaviours (for example conflict management) rather than relationship status per se (that is, married, divorced). Inter-parental conflict/discord is defined as conflicts that occur between parents/carers that are frequent, intense and poorly resolved.

Although the focus of our report is specifically on inter-parental conflict and outcomes for children in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure, it is
acknowledged that families and children living in or at risk of poverty are at high risk for a range of negative outcomes such as emotional and behavioural problems, physical and mental health problems and reduced academic attainment.