The Breakdown Britain report, launched yesterday, argues that family breakdowns cause social problems costing more than £20 billion each year.
The report also showed that children from a broken home are twice as likely to have behavioural problems, perform worse at school, become sexually active younger, suffer depression and turn to drugs, smoking and heavy drinking.
So, surely any strategy which can actively help couples whose relationships are in trouble, and especially where there are children involved, should be actively pursued?
Susanna Abse, Director of The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, says “This is the moment to say that not only is family breakdown clearly an identifiable cause of great misery and economic loss, but that we have ways of addressing it. The therapeutic work we have undertaken with couples has been shown to help them save and rebuild their relationship. Funding for couple support strengthens families and protects children and a great deal more needs to be done to provide adequate affordable services for couples in need.”
“A 10 year small scale study funded by the DfES we have just completed, undertaken amongst couples with serious relationship difficulties, shows that couple psychotherapy has a positive impact on the relationship.”
At the start of their therapy, 0ver 80% of the couples taking part were on the brink of separation and divorce, in some cases they had actually started the mediation process. But they were able to use the therapy to rebuild their relationship. At the end of the study just over 20% did decide to divorce but found that therapy enabled them to take that very serious decision as thoughtfully as possible.
16 couples took part in this part of the research and 14 of them had young children. In all cases parents were worried that their behaviour was having a negative impact on the children’s development. It was also the case that the parents’ relationship difficulties spread to include problematic relationships with the children. In all cases, therapy was felt to have improved the situation significantly, whether through working on the parent - child relationships or through the improvement in the parental relationship impacting positively on the children.
Susanna Abse, says “This careful, detailed study clearly shows the importance of dealing with the difficulties within the couple relationship, especially where there are children. The fact that more of the couples were able to work through the difficulties in their relationship and stay together after therapy, than those without therapy, is enormously important to creating a psychologically healthy society.“
The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships founded in 1948 aims through the linked activities of training, research and clinical services to provide help and understanding that improves the quality of adult couple relationships prevents family breakdown and enhances the lives of children.
This project grew out of a small innovative service project funded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department, initiated in 1996 in what was then the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute. The background is described in two papers; ‘Evaluating change in couple functioning’, (Lanman and Grier, Sexual and Relationship Therapy Vol 18, No 1, 2003, 13-24) and ‘Objectivity in psychoanalytic assessment of couple relationships’, (Lanman, Grier and Evans, British Journal of Psychiatry 2003, 182,255-260).
Prepared by à propos on behalf of The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships
Susanna Abse, Director of The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships 020 8938 2366
Jane Martin of à propos 020 8749 8849
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