Research tells us that children of divorced parents may be affected by a higher than average incidence of depression and mood disorders, and also achieve less academic success than their peers from intact families. Attachment theory shows us that a child can develop strong, secure bonds with both parents from an early age, which is important for children’s healthy psychological development.

When parents separate, the child’s attachment with one parent is often prioritised at the expense of their bond with the other parent causing disruption and psychological stress. Attachment theory also suggests that a child’s distress at separation from a parent is often a sign of secure attachment, so children’s reactions during contact handovers should be interpreted in this light.

There is research which suggests that children who grow up living with one parent generally wish they had a stronger relationship with the non-resident parent, and in particular they seem to feel the lack of practical support even more than the emotional bond. Daytime contact involving practical caring activities can be crucial in maintaining secure attachments. However, increasing the number of handovers to facilitate this can risk exposing children to inter-parent conflict which can be detrimental to psychological development.


This is an extract from an article published in ‘Family Law’ – Hannah Holdaway. The full version of this article appears in the January 2017 issue of Family Law and will be made available here from April 2017.


Hannah Holdaway is a specialist family solicitor at Harbour Family Law Solicitors. You can contact her by e-mail at: or by calling 0117 375 1780.

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