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Summer holidays fray parents’ relationships, new research reveals

Nearly a fifth of parents end the school holidays contemplating divorce or separation, according to new research from Stowe Family Law.

Eighteen per cent of parents began the new school year contemplating major changes to their relationships, including separation or divorce., the survey reveals.

Financial worries and childcare issues may be to blame. Nearly a third of parents (30per cent) said they felt stressed about balancing childcare during the holidays.

Almost half of the UK parents surveyed (46 per cent) said they come under increased financial pressures during the school holidays, with women (49 per cent) feeling the pinch more than men (43 per cent).

Opinium Research conducted  the research for us, surveying 2008 UK adults across the country earlier this month.

Nationally, co-habiting parents are twice as likely to say they had experienced strains in their relationships during the school holidays as their married counterparts (10 per cent versus five)

Meanwhile, more than half (56 per cent) of young parents (18-24) said they were struggling with the demands of childcare. Parents of children aged four to seven are reportedly under the most pressure – the majority  said they felt the strain of childcare (45 per cent) as well as financial pressure (68 per cent).

Their slightly older counterparts – parents aged 25-34 – argue the most with their partners during the holidays (32 percent). As children grow up, however, arguments with partners start to drop off, as care burdens lessen and children become more independent. Only six per cent of those with children aged 12 to 14 said they argued, compared to 12 per cent of parents with children aged four to seven.

There were regional variations in the figures, with 29 per cent of parents living in London reconsidering their relationship at the start of the new school year, more than anywhere else in the country. Parents in the East Midlands were the next most likely (24 per cent), followed by Mums and Dads in the North East (22 per cent).

Parents in the nation’s capital were also most likely to worry about childcare (43 per cent) and to have argued more often with their partners during the holidays (26 per cent).

London parents, meanwhile, tied with those in Yorkshire and Humber for increased financial pressures during the holidays (53 per cent).

Nearly a fifth of those surveyed (14 per cent) said they thought the best time to start divorce proceedings was straight after the summer school holiday. Mums and Dads in London, again, were more likely than those elsewhere actually go ahead and file for divorce straight afterwards (18 per cent). They were closely followed by parents in the South West and the North (17 percent).

Parents in London seem to having a tougher time than those elsewhere, the survey suggests. They are also at least twice as likely as any other region  to resent their partner or spouse as they are to shoulder the bulk of childcare (29 per cent). Nationally, women (15 per cent) are more likely to resent their partners for childcare burdens than men (13 per cent).

So what’s going on here? This year we have seen summer childcare costs climb over £100 per week for the first time. With childcare fees growing faster than both wages and inflation, it’s little wonder so many parents feel additional pressure those long school holidays.

Those holidays are supposed to be a time when busy parents take time off to spend with their families. Our experience, based on the clients we see at our offices across the country, is that many struggling parents may try and give their marriages “one final go” over the holidays, or delay any proceedings until the children are back at school because they don’t wish to spoil the family’s time together. But the bottom line is this: many troubled relationships may already be too damaged to be rescued by a holiday – and could easily break down completely during those long summer days.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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