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The impact of separation on parenting confidence

Platt, Lucinda and Haux, Tina (2019) The impact of separation on parenting confidence. In: Kreyenfeld, Michaela and Trappe, Heike, eds. Families, Relationships and Societies“ on the topic of “Parental Life Courses after Separation and Divorce in Europe. Springer. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


In the context of high rates of parental separation and divorce, an extensive literature has explored the impact of separation on both children’s and parents’ outcomes. However, while the economic and mental health consequences for mothers, and the diminution of these effects over time since separation, are well-attested, we know much less about how separation does or does not impact mothers’ sense of their own efficacy as parents. In this paper, we investigate whether mothers display lower confidence in their parenting following separation, and if so, whether it recovers over time. This is the first large scale study in the UK to address this question; and it adds to international research by including both cohabiting and married mothers and by focusing on parenting confidence rather than mental health more generally. Drawing on the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a large, nationally representative cohort study of children born in the UK in 2000-2001, we analyse the experience of 12,000 mothers who were in intact relationships when their child was aged around 9 months. We track these mothers until their child is aged around seven years old, and observe which of them separate over this period. We first confirm that the perceived parenting competence of mothers who subsequently go on to separate does not differ from that of mothers who remain in intact relationships. We then show that those mothers who separate by the time their child is aged experience a reduction in parenting confidence at separation, and that, even though confidence increases across the board as children get older, the gap persists: separated mother confidence remains lower than that of mothers in couples over our observation window. We discuss these findings in the context of theories of agency and the stigmatisation of lone mothers in society.

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Social Policy
Depositing User: Tina Haux
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2019 09:28 UTC
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2019 09:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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