New Research Seeks to Shed Light on Families Sharing Parenting of Young Children

Press Release

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

One Family, Ireland’s national organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating is seeking parents to take part in an online survey on the experiences of young children living in families where parents are separated. The survey is being carried out by a joint research team from Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork on behalf of One Family. The research project is funded through the RTE Toy Show Appeal and Community Foundation for Ireland Fund and is seeking to develop guidance on contact time for infants and young children in separated families. To complete the survey click here.

Niamh Kelly, Policy Manager with One Family said, “The most common time for parents to separate is when their child or children are very young. Many families seek help in setting up and managing contact arrangements but find there is no uniform approach. We see through our work with families, parents often struggle to determine how to best share the parenting of their young children. This can be extremely challenging for parents and children alike, particularly in situations where there is conflict, abuse and/or limited contact between parents. We want to change all this by developing a child-centred, best practice tool that can be used by parents, legal and social care professionals alike, to make safe and optimal contact arrangements for children under the age of six years.”

The survey is open to Mums and Dads who have experience of sharing parenting of a child or children when they were aged 0-6 years old. Parents can answer for past experiences, once their child is under 18 years of age at time of responding. For more information and to take part in the survey click here. The survey is open until 31st of March and will take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.

Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of The Community Foundation for Ireland said: “Our mission of equality for all in thriving communities will only ever be achieved if it is rooted in the experiences of people. This is an opportunity for separated parents to have their voices heard and provide the real-world experiences and learnings which can help form a best practice tool which will benefit many others. On behalf of The Community Foundation we welcome this ground-breaking work as an important contribution to ensuring all children have the best start in life.”

Dr Simone McCaughren, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin said, ““This research will examine the impact of contact arrangements on young children, from their parents’ point of view, following separation, divorce or where parents were never in a relationship but have a child. This is the first time in Ireland that this issue has been the subject of a research study. Part of it will examine the extent to which children’s voices are heard. It will look at the complexities and difficulties around decisions on guardianship, access and custody.”

Dr Aisling Parkes, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University College Cork said, “The time is ripe for a critical exploration into this issue which affects the lives of so many children and families in Ireland today. Recent times have witnessed a variety of legal and policy developments in Ireland in the area of children’s rights, but often the voices of smaller children are left unheard. This research seeks to tap into the unique perspectives of separated parents of young children who have direct experience of parenting a child in common. It aims to learn more about the main challenges associated with these arrangements and how parents seek to navigate their way through them. In particular, the research will provide a snapshot of the extent to which young children themselves are included in the decision-making processes around these arrangements.


For Editors:

One Family:
One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.
For further information visit:

Background to the research:
Pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life is the most common point of separation for parents. Many parents seek assistance during the separation process; particularly when this intersects with pregnancy, an infant or young child, high conflict, abuse and/or limited parental communication. One Family works with parents and their children, providing counselling and parenting services during this time.
There is no uniform approach to contact with infants or young children for separated families in Ireland with the various stakeholders holding different perspectives and placing varying emphasis on factors such as the principle of the best interest of the child, child protection, parental rights etc. Due to the lack of a consistent, evidenced-based approach parents often struggle to determine how to best share parenting of young children. This research project funded through the RTE Toy Show Appeal Community Foundation Ireland seeks to develop guidance on contact time for infants and young children in separated families to support parents during this difficult time. To read more about this project click here.

Available for Interview:
Niamh Kelly, Policy Manager | t: 01-6629212
Further Information/Scheduling
Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 085 7241294