CAD.20.022 – Work it out! Optimizing Post-Divorce Family processes by Improving Parent Interventions Programs

Route: Child and adolescent development, upbringing and education

Cluster question: 059 How can we help children and adolescents grow up safe and healthy?

Yearly, around 86.000 children in the Netherlands experience the divorce or separation of their parents. This constitutes a risk for their adjustment and development, particularly when divorce is accompanied by deteriorated quality of parenting and increased interparental conflicts. Especially so called high-conflict divorces are harmful for children, and they seem to be more common in parents with psychiatric-, personality-, and addiction problems. Further, they are overrepresented in family law, and interrelations have been found between divorce legislation and family functioning.

Although several prevention and intervention programs are offered for parents after divorce, knowledge about their effectiveness is entirely lacking. Moreover, there is no information about their active ingredients, and no target group differentiation. To address these shortcomings, a multi-method, interdisciplinary research approach will be applied, a.) examining which parental and interparental characteristics are linked to high-conflict divorces, and how they relate to post-divorce child adjustment; b.) reviewing effectiveness of existing intervention programs worldwide, in terms of parent and child outcomes, program characteristics, and instruments used; c.) assessing the effectiveness of existing Dutch parent programs, how they work, and for whom; d.) improving children’s role in the divorce process and in parent intervention programs, linked to their post-divorce adjustment, and safeguarding their rights in these contexts.

Various research methods will be used, such as: meta-analyses, focus-groups with youth-care and legal professionals, target group consultation, and effect studies including method and modal comparisons and exploration of idiographic interventions.

This project entails cooperation with family law, psychiatry, pedagogics, and psychology, and with clinical and legal practice. The overall aim is to improve integrated divorce support, in terms of differentiated and personalized interventions and improved interdisciplinary cooperation. Ultimately, we aim for tailored and effective divorce intervention programs that are ‘as light as possible, and as heavy as necessary’, to secure children’s development post-divorce.


child adjustment, child development, differentiation, divorce, effectiveness, intervention, multi-disciplinary, multi-method, parents, Prevention

Other organisations

Altra, Child Welfare Council (RvdK), Elker, Horizon, Jeugdformaat, Juzt, more options will be considered (e.g. ScheidingsAtlas, or Specialized mental health care organizations, other options to be considered. Youth Policy: Dutch Youth Institute (NJi). Organizations yet to be approached: Psychiatry and, Ouderschap na Scheiding, PROGRAMS: Ouderschap Blijft, Schip-aanpak, Triple P Transitions). OTHER ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES: Utrecht Family Law Department (Molengraaf Institute), UvA Forensic Child and Youth Care. HEALTH CARE ORGANIZATIONS: Sterk Huis, Youk


Organisation Utrecht University (UU), Education and Pedagogy, Research Unit of Youth and Family
Name Dr. I.E. (Inge) van der Valk