In a report published by couple therapy charity Tavistock Relationships, looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on couples, families, and children, 40% of all those surveyed (2,093 people) said the pandemic had caused additional stress for their children and wider family, and 73% said children in families where their parents’ conflict could be helped if their parents seek relationship support.
Andrew Balfour, CEO of Tavistock Relationships, said: ‘The results of our YouGov survey paint a worrying picture of the state of couples and families in post-pandemic Britain, and demonstrate an urgent need to support families and relationships to improve both adult and child mental health.’
‘Four out of ten respondents felt that the lockdown experience would have long-term impacts on their mental health. A similar number said that the pandemic caused additional stress for their children and wider family. It is especially concerning that separated parents have particularly struggled, with 68% of them saying the pandemic had caused additional family difficulties.’
He added: ‘The message from this survey reveals that family relationships are under strain, and people believe that couple and family relationships need support now, just as our mental health does. Indeed, the pandemic experience has brought home what research has long shown: relationship health is mental health in many respects. When relationships are in trouble, our mental health suffers.’
‘With effective relationship support, we see significant improvements in mental health as well as in relationship quality. For example, year on year, figures released by NHS Digital indicate that couple therapy is one of the most effective psychological treatments for depression and anxiety.’
Balfour continued: ‘This is so important not just for the well-being of parents, but for their children too. Those children whose parents are in poor mental health are more vulnerable to developing such problems themselves. Since the pandemic, this association has increased as our most vulnerable families have become more disadvantaged than ever. While some may have benefited from the opportunity to spend more time with their partners and families during the pandemic, for a significant number of families, life has become much harder.’
‘We are encouraged to see that so many of the people we polled recognised that intense, frequent and unresolved conflict between parents can have on their children’s development, with more than eight out of ten respondents acknowledging that this can affect children’s sleep as well as their academic achievement.’
He also mentioned: ‘It is also heartening to see such a high level of awareness of the benefits of relationship support for parents, with almost half (43%) of all those surveyed (2,093) recognising that this will improve their quality of life children. It’s clear that by investing in relationships, we can improve both adult and child mental health and save money further down the line by better supporting struggling families in this way.’
‘We are calling on the Government to increase access to relationship support for families across the UK and build upon the success of programmes such as Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC), funded by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).’
‘The RPC programme’s problem was initially intended to address inter-generational cycles of deprivation caused by the damaging impacts of inter-parental conflict on children’s developmental outcomes that have been made worse by the pandemic.’
He concluded: ‘For the Government’s levelling-up plan to have lasting and meaningful results, we must support all families’ relationships and mental health, particularly those who have suffered differentially badly as a result of the pandemic so that levelling up can begin at home.’
‘All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,093 adults, of which 1,401 were in a relationship. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd and 23rd July 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18 and above.’
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