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Inter-parental relationships, conflict and the impacts of poverty: An overview

This overview summarises outputs from the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) about why action to tackle inter-parental conflict matters for children and families who are in or at risk of poverty.

There is a growing body of evidence on the impact of persistent and unresolved conflict between parents on children’s mental health and future life-chances. In 2016, our report What works to enhance interparental relationship and improve outcomes for children, produced in collaboration with Professor Gordon Harold (University of Sussex) and commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions, set out the scientific evidence on the impact of parental conflict on children and the evidence for 15 interventions available in the UK which seek to address that conflict. New EIF work has looked specifically at the implications for parental relationships in families experiencing poverty and disadvantage. DWP analysis shows that 28% of all children living in workless couple-parent families, live with parents who report having a distressed relationship. This is almost three times greater than is reported where both parents are working.

There is growing interest in tackling parental conflict and supporting parental relationships. In January 2016, the government doubled funding for relationship support to £70 million. Since 2015, 12 local authorities have been exploring ways to embed support for parental relationships within their ‘Local Family Offer’. Most recently, the Improving lives: Helping workless families policy paper puts forward a set of proposals to address parental conflict as a key component of supporting disadvantaged families.