Are there causal connections between family change and child outcomes or are there other reasons for these associations?The paper also examines an exemplar intervention that has been shown to ameliorate the adverse impacts of family change on children’s wellbeing.

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Many scholars who have identified associations between family structure and family change and child outcomes have drawn attention to the relatively small size of the effects. (1999) describe the effect sizes they measured as “modest”, while Burns et al. Allison and Furstenberg (1989) report that the proportion of variation in outcome measures that could be attributed to marital dissolution was generally small, never amounting to more than 3%.

The modest nature of the associations between separation and children’s outcomes means that knowing that a child comes from a separated family, and knowing nothing else about the child, has little predictive power in terms of the child’s wellbeing.

The paper provides a brief overview of the research literature in this field.

For reasons of space, the paper focuses rather narrowly on the impact of parental separation on child outcomes, although it also briefly examines the impact of remarriage and multiple family transitions on child wellbeing.

Behind these patterns of associations between family contexts and child outcomes, however, lies a complex web of overlapping and interacting influences, which means that interpreting these results is far from straightforward.

It is the aim of this paper to throw some light on the reasons why child outcomes are contingent on family contexts.

How much is attributable to the absence of a parent figure?

How much is attributable to poorer mental health of lone parents following a parental separation?

How much is attributable to the conflict between parents which often accompanies a parental separation?