Reducing parental conflict – information for professionals
There is strong evidence that conflict between parents, whether together or separated, can have a significant negative impact on children’s mental health and long-term life-chances.
Not all conflict is damaging, but where conflict is frequent, intense and poorly resolved it can harm children’s outcomes.
The Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme is funded for 2 years by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Tower Hamlets is one of the local authorities across England to integrate services and approaches which address parental conflict into their local services for families.
Tower Hamlets is also working closely with the Early Intervention Foundation to build and share the evidence base.
Tower Hamlets has a high incidence of domestic abuse, and the RPC Programme aligns with our overarching Domestic Abuse Strategy. RPC is aimed at conflict below the threshold of domestic abuse.
It is important that practitioners can distinguish between parental conflict and domestic abuse.
The RPC program looks at reducing conflict at an early intervention level, and empowers parents to gain insight into how harmful conflict affects children’s development.
Difference between harmful parental conflict and domestic abuse
You may find yourself working with families and wondering whether the behaviours you are seeing indicate harmful parental conflict or domestic abuse. The two are very different (although can look similar), and it is important that we are able to identify which is happening as how we respond will differ.
It is important to remember that that conflict and abuse can happen when parents are together and when they are separated.
Questions to consider if you are worried about potential domestic abuse
- Is one parent afraid of the other?
- Is there an imbalance of power?
- Is one parent using power to restrict the other’s relationship with family and friends?
- Or their ability to work and be financially independent?
- Is one parent using threatening behaviour?
- Does one parent constantly contact and harass the other?
- Are the arguments in any way physical?
You may find the following Screening Tool helpful in thinking about whether it is domestic abuse or harmful parental conflict.
Screening tool for practitioners
- To promote Early identification of Harmful Parental Conflict and Domestic abuse
- To help professionals reflect on the patterns of communication between the parents (whether they are Separated / Separating /Together) and consider which approaches are best suited to support parents to argue better, in ways that are helpful rather than harmful.
- To ensure a timely response to the needs of children and families.
When using the checklist tool, a restorative and collaborative approach should be employed such as active listening and relationship based techniques to explore whether the parents may be experiencing harmful relationship conflict or domestic violence and abuse.
The Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC) programme is aimed at conflict below the threshold of domestic abuse. This means there is no physical violence and no coercive control being exerted by one parent over the other (particularly by one parent exploiting power imbalances between the couple).
If there is any physical aggression of any kind, mediation is not the correct Service – One Minute Guide
For more information
Tel: 020 7364 5006 (option 2)
Drop-in to one of our Children and Family Centres
What harmful parental conflict might look like
- Stuck arguments that recur frequently about the same topic including finances, how time is spent, and how domestic tasks are split.
- Limited ability by either parent to compromise.
- Conflict over contact arrangements for children.
- Parents having very different approaches to conflict meaning they find it hard to resolve issues.
- Children may be drawn into managing conflict.
Resources to support practitioners in reducing harmful parental conflict
Triple P. Transitions Parenting Program
Triple P provides a toolbox of different parenting strategies. The three P’s in Triple P (positive parenting programme) aim to raise self-confidence, enable parents to manage behaviour more effectively, and establish routines and practice self-care as a parent.
Family Mediation alongside offer of Family Group Conference
Mediation for Parents in conflict
The Oneplusone online programme
These are digital resources which are available for parents and practitioners. They include direct work activities and online videos which can be used to engage parents in conversations about conflict. Practitioners can use the tools as part of conversations to support parents to gain insight into how conflict can impact on children, and how they can negotiate, make arrangements on matters such as contact, finance, parenting chores.
The digital resources can be accessed via the links below:
For more information on our reducing Parental Conflict programme for practitioners, please contact: