Our survey finds they understand the value of good relationships for themselves and their children.
To celebrate the launch of our new parenting service Tavistock Relationships surveyed hundreds of couples with children who visited our social media pages. There were some interesting results - showing that today’s couples are acutely aware that their relationship affects their children.
Our survey was anonymous and asked about attitudes towards relationships and parenting.
Couples viewing our parenting articles were presented with a series of multiple choice questions. The answers revealed how profoundly parents feel the impact of their own family experiences on the relationship, and importantly – given the growing evidence in this area – that parents are very conscious of how the quality of their life together affects their children. Here are some of the key findings.
Our past shapes our relationships
A huge 79% of respondents - drawn from a cross-section of parents in terms of age, relationship status and demographics, answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Does your own childhood impact how you are as a parent?’.
It is the kind of question that couples are often asked when coming to therapy, but it may seem somewhat surprising in a public survey to see so many respondents indicate how they are aware of this factor amidst the ‘here and now bustle’ of daily family life.
Our CEO Andrew Balfour wrote a recent piece about how therapy aims to interrupt generational cycles/patterns of destructive or negative behaviour.
Frequent or unresolved conflict amongst couples impacts children
An overwhelming 90% said they thought that discord between partners affects children. As a leading provider of couple counselling and parenting services, Tavistock Relationships has found ever increasing evidence, allied to 70 years’ practical experience, of the impact of couple conflict on children. You can read our report here. In light of this, it is reassuring to find that so many couples innately understand the effect that their relationship has on their offspring.
We have undertaken a large amount of work and produced public information on the impact of couple conflict on children, you can read it here.
Having kids changes things in some way for almost everyone
‘Things will never be the same again’ is a piece of wisdom often uttered by a knowing parent to their grown up children as they share time together with a new baby. Research on this topic suggests there is some truth in this message, with studies showing a tendency for the quality of relationships to dip in early parenthood. Of course, this is not to say that the changes in life and relationships which the arrival of a new baby brings are necessarily negative for all parents. Indeed, for 12% of our sample, having children had made life feel better as a couple. Worryingly, however, for 31%, the arrival of a child had made their relationship worse, and it is these parents in particular who may well benefit from the time and space which couple counselling can provide them with, as they adjust to the relationship strains and stresses resulting from this major life transition.
Our view: It has often been noted that the arrival of children can be the single biggest ‘disrupter to relationship quality’ for couples. That is why we encourage couples who are finding things difficult to come and see us, read our article on why it is ok to seek help.
Parents find using both love and discipline works with children
When we asked our survey respondents what kind of overall approach their children responded better to, there was a large consensus (79% of the whole survey) that found a mix of warmth and exercising limits worked best for their children. Only 2% found that using only discipline worked best, the lowest answer.
Sometimes letting your children down by enforcing boundaries and saying ‘no’ is as important as giving them love. Read Honor Rhodes’ blog about being a parent and disappointing your kids here.
Housework is a key flashpoint
An important question that we asked, which offered a fresh perspective was: ‘What do you and your partner argue most about?’. This is an area that has been the subject of many studies over the years. The wealth of survey data means therapists in general know what the common problems are. Our study focused on couples who are parents - arguably the most time poor subsection of adults in relationships - so it might not be surprising that the area of chores was the single most argued over topic. This response was double the next most cited reason, communication problems. Aside from arguing over the children (12%), other reasons were overshadowed in importance; indeed, even topics that receive much publicity, such as money and sex, drew only single-digit responses.
Read more about common areas of conflict and how to avoid them.
Saying sorry is always important
The final question asked respondents which partner resolved arguments, with 59% of respondents saying they were the one to say ‘sorry’ first – though this of course may be open to interpretation!! As there was a ‘no answer’ option, the fact that this answer was mostly fully completed suggests that couples are regularly trying to sort things out.
See our blog article on forgiveness.
Couple counselling works
For parents it is important to work together and look after each other, as well as take care of children. Often the couple side of life can deteriorate with the sheer pressure and lack of time to spend together. When this causes couples to become detached and unhappy, seeking professional help within a safe space can often provide a vital way for them to work to improve the relationship.
Our therapy has been proven in studies to be effective, and the words of our former clients act as testimony in themselves [links].
We offer a variety of services for parents in all situations.
Whether you are straight, gay, or lesbian parents, together or separated, we have a service providing support. Choose the one most relevant to you:
Parenting Consultation - For Couples seeking general relationship and parenting support
For Separated Parents - Divorce Service and Parenting Together
For Adoptive Couples - Adopting Together
Parenting Groups - Parents as Partners