Research reveals children’s views on contact with parents in domestic abuse cases

Date: 6th December 2013
Category: Family Environment and Alternative Care

More than half (55 per cent) of children whose parents go to court in disputes over contact where there are also allegations of domestic abuse, did not want any contact with their non-resident parent. In most instances this meant they did not want contact with their father, according to research published today by Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People.

The research, conducted by Dr Kirsteen Mackay, considered the treatment of the views of 155 children from 97 cases in Scotland in which the court was asked to decide the amount of contact between a child and a parent in the context of domestic abuse.

The main reasons given by children for not wanting any contact with their other parent were:

  • being hit and shouted at,
  • destruction of property,
  • feeling 'sad' or frightened, and
  • parental alcohol abuse.

Overall, the research found that the older children were, the more likely it was that their views would be taken. For example, 71 percent of five to eight-year olds in cases where abuse was alleged had their views taken, while the figure was 100 percent among those aged 13 and over.

However, even when children's views in contact cases involving domestic abuse are taken, there is significant variation in the weight that is attached to their views. One third of children (34 percent) had a contact outcome that bore no resemblance to the view they expressed and one fifth (20 percent) had an outcome that only partially accommodated their view (such as the mid-week visit being dropped if they said they wanted less contact).

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that:

  • it should not be assumed that children will benefit from contact when there is evidence the contact parent is domestically abusive.
  • court reporters often uncover evidence of abuse and enable children to be protected. Their function and scope must be retained and supported.

Read SCCYP's news article on the report here.

Download the report here.