Majority of fathers continue to see their child after separation, study finds

29 June 2015

More than four in five fathers still have contact with their child after they have separated from their partner, according to new research.

However, dads who were more involved with parenting before a break-up are more likely to play a bigger role in their child’s future upbringing.

The study, conducted by the University of Kent and London School of Economics, found that three in five separated fathers see their children once or twice a week, and more than two in five often have their child stay overnight.

The researchers also discovered that more than 25 per cent of fathers who separated from partners before their child was aged 3, did not have any contact with their child at age 11.

The study’s authors analysed data from the families of nearly 3,000 children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which follows young people born across the UK in 2000-01.

The parents of these children, who were asked about parenting when their child was aged nine months, three, five, seven and 11 years old, had experienced separation during the course of the study.

Lead author, Dr Tina Haux, University of Kent, suggests that fathers who cared for their children by themselves before separation are more likely to stay in touch with them following a break-up.

“We found that fathers who were actively involved with their children prior to separation – doing night feeds, putting them to bed and reading with them, for example – tend to have more frequent contact after separation.

“Both the confidence and experience of dealing with the child, and the bond associated with regular independent care, may increase the chances of contact,” Dr Haux explains.

The study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also shows that being economically secure and having a degree increases a father’s chances of staying in touch with their child after a break-up.

“Policymakers would do well to consider how to support fathers’ participation in child care in the family home. Extended paternity leave and increased financial compensation can support the involvement of fathers and help with shared parenting after separation,” Dr Haux concludes.

Further information

Parenting and contact before and after separation by Tina Haux and Lucinda Platt

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