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Breaking up is hard to do – study seeks views

Breaking up is hard to do – study seeks children's views

The views of children and teenagers experiencing parental separation are to be heard in a groundbreaking study to be undertaken at Victoria University.

Doctoral student Andrea Rigg, a student in the School of Psychology, is seeking 50 children and teenagers, aged between nine and 18 in the Wellington region, whose parents have separated in the last two years to participate in the study. Their views will be examined in a confidential initial interview and a second interview some months later.

Ms Rigg says very little research had been carried out in New Zealand to examine how young people cope with parental separation.

"We often hear a lot about adults whose relationships are breaking down, their pains and strategies to cope but very little is heard from their children and what we do know tends to be fragmentary and anecdotal.

"My research aims to hear first hand how the children experience the process of their parents separating and how they coped. By meeting with them again in a follow up interview, I aim to see the changes they've undergone and assess what their needs have been as well as their general feelings and wellbeing.

"Family breakdowns are a common experience for children in New Zealand. One in three marriages alone ends in divorce and almost 50 percent of these involve children, many of whom are under 10 years of age. As many adult New Zealanders in relationships are not marrying or delaying marriage, the number of children affected is likely to be much higher."
Ms Rigg says once she completes her doctorate, she will prepare a booklet for use by parents, professionals and others working with children and families, including those associated with the Family Court.

Ms Rigg, who has an Honours degree in Psychology from Victoria University, a Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Diploma in Education from Otago University, is carrying out her research under the supervision of Dr Jan Pryor, Director of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families at Victoria University. The consent of the child's guardian is required and no participants will be identified in the research.

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