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Childrens perspectives on their changing families Judy Dunn Institute of Psychiatry Kings College London.

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Presentation on theme: "Childrens perspectives on their changing families Judy Dunn Institute of Psychiatry Kings College London."— Presentation transcript:

1 Childrens perspectives on their changing families Judy Dunn Institute of Psychiatry Kings College London

2 Childrens perspectives It is increasing argued that we need to include the views of children on family transitions Over 70% of the children who experience separation of their parents are under 10 years old (ONS) How can we assess their perspectives?

3 Childrens perspectives In the programme of research based on the ALSPAC study, a nested design included the Avon Brothers and Sisters Study, in which various forms of family were over represented: 50 single mother, 50 stepfather, 50 complex stepfamilies, and 50 control families. More than one child in each family was studied.

4 Percentage of families in different family types who took part in the study Single but not alone families 7% Two biological parent families 26% Single-parent families 18% Two step- parent families 12% Stepmother families 11% Stepfather families 26%

5 Ages of participating children Number of children Ages

6 Childrens perspectives Children aged between 7 and 15 were interviewed and completed various self-report assessments Children between 4 and 8 completed maps of their families (n = 258) Children between 4 and 7 drew their families (n = 182) Longitudinal assessments were made at 2 year intervals

7 Childrens perspectives Who is part of the family? Interviews: Fathers: *Resident f. included in family by all children living with him *Nonresident: 40% children with NR fathers did not include as member of family * Stepfathers: * 84% children included resident stepfathers *Only 36% children included nonresident stepparents as family members

8 Childrens perspectives Childrens age, time in household, extent of conflict between resident parents, extent of shared family activitiesall important in relation to childrens adjustment and well- beingnot related to their views on who is part of the family

9 Childrens perspectives: Interviews Confiding and communication at time of separation Key confidants: Grandparents and friends Longitudinal data on child-grandparent relations over 5 years shows stability in closeness, though decrease in contact

10 Child-grandparent relations Follow-up five years later Stability of child reported closeness highlights intergenerational links: mothers accounts of childhood relations with g.mother correlated with current closeness to g.mother reported by child. Association especially strong for single mother families

11 Childrens accounts of conflict between parents Childrens involvement in conflict between mother and NR father key to adjustment problems This particularly clear for children in single- mother families Involvement in conflict between mother and Stepfather also linked to adjustment

12 x FAMILY (M = Mother, SF = Stepfather, YS = Younger Sister) RELATIVES (MGM/MGF = Maternal Grandmother/Grandfather, A = Aunts, U = Uncle, C = Cousins, SFM/SFF= Stepfathers Mother/Father, F = Father) SCHOOL (Fr = Friends, T = Teacher) FRIENDS/ NEIGHBOURS (Fr = Friends, N = Neighbour) c F Fr Figure 3.1a An example of a fourfield map from a child in a stepfather family c c c c c u A A A SFF SFM A A MGF MGM Fr YS M Fr SF Fr N T Female Male

13 Close Not close Percentage of children Figure 3.1b Closeness to fathers: Differences in map placement by relatedness and family type * Significantly different from fathers own child in stepfather family * * Child from non stepfamily Fathers own child in stepfather family Stepchild in stepfather family

14 Closeness to fathers: map placement and adjustment Significant association between where children placed their father/stepfather, and childrens adjustment (externalising) Stepfathers most likely to be placed not close

15 Closeness to fathers: map placement and adjustment Regression analyses showed this made an important additional contribution to externalising beyond the variance explained by mother-father conflict, fathers account of his relationships with child, his educational level, emotional well-being, biological relatedness to child and family income

16 5-7 year-old childrens drawings of their families 182 children, average age 5.6 years 182 children, average age 5.6 years Who did they include/exclude from their drawings? Who did they include/exclude from their drawings? How did they group the family members? How did they group the family members? Was exclusion or grouping related to family type? Was exclusion or grouping related to family type? Was exclusion or grouping related to childrens adjustment? Was exclusion or grouping related to childrens adjustment?

17 Full sibling Mother Half sibling Child Figure 1.2 a

18 Non resident father Sibling Self Half Sibling Mother Figure 1.2b

19 Figure 1.2 c CousinSelf Grandmother Grandfather Mother Sibling

20 Who is excluded? Step-parents were more likely to be excluded than biological parents Step-parents were more likely to be excluded than biological parents Stepfathers were more likely to be excluded than stepmothers Stepfathers were more likely to be excluded than stepmothers Half- and step-siblings over four times more likely to be excluded than biological siblings Half- and step-siblings over four times more likely to be excluded than biological siblings

21 Grouping parents: 62% of children drew their parents together: Children with 2 biological parents much more likely to draw them together Children with 2 biological parents much more likely to draw them together No children in stepfather families drew their stepfather in the same group as themselves No children in stepfather families drew their stepfather in the same group as themselves

22 Longitudinal follow-up on drawings, interviews and maps Stability of who is excluded from drawings over 3 years Notable sensitivity of young children to distinction between relations with birth and stepparents Significance of g.parents in adjustment Longitudinal stability childrens views


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