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Commissioner guide: Reducing parental conflict

This guide is a practical planning tool to support local commissioners and leaders of services for children and families to reduce the impact of conflict between parents on children.

Commissioner guide – interactive



The commissioner guide is designed to be modular and interactive – while we encourage you to read the whole guide, each section is written to stand alone, to directly address the questions that you want an answer to, whether that is to develop your understanding of the evidence, to find ways to measure the impact of what you are doing, or something else. Each question also has links to further detail, and tools and resources that can help you.

You don’t need to be an expert in ‘parental conflict’ to use this guide, but it is specifically written for public sector leaders and commissioners with responsibility for family services. It is intended to support them to use the best available research and practice evidence on interparental conflict in their work to get the best outcomes for children.

This guide was updated in March 2023 based on our ongoing research and work with local areas to support their reducing parental conflict activities. This update includes links to new EIF tools and resources.


  • What is this guide about and who is it for?
  • What do I need to know about the impact of parental conflict on children?
    • What does ‘parental conflict’ mean?
    • How does parental conflict impact on children?
    • Why does parental conflict affect some children more than others?
    • What do we know about parental conflict at crucial points in family life?
    • What sorts of services seek to address the impact of parental conflict on children?
    • What is the national and local context for work on parental conflict?
    • What are the implications of parental conflict for local family services?
    • Which parts of the workforce can have an impact on parental conflict?
    • Which organisations have specialist knowledge about parental conflict?
  • How can I measure the impact of parental conflict and understand local need?
    • What data can I use to understand local needs relating to parental conflict?
    • What approach should I take to evaluation?
    • How can I measure parental conflict and its impact at a family level?
  • How can I reduce the impact of parental conflict on children in my area?
    • How can I mobilise my workforce?
    • How can I choose evidence-based interventions to match my local needs?
    • What interventions can reduce parental conflict and improve child outcomes?
    • How do I match an intervention with my local context?
    • How can I develop a relationship support pathway for families?
    • How can I persuade my stakeholders to engage on interparental relationships?

This resource builds on our innovative reviews of research conducted by EIF in collaboration with Professor Gordon Harold at the University of Sussex, highlighting the latest scientific and intervention evidence on how the interparental relationship affects multiple outcomes for children, including emotional, behavioural, social and academic development.

In the design of this guide, we have taken our What Works reviews and sought to translate these for practical use by commissioners. However, commissioning services on interparental conflict is not simple. While there is strong and consistent scientific evidence that conflict between parents can impact on children’s long-term mental health and life chances, this is a new policy area in the UK. Few services are commissioned locally and evidence on what works to support families is at an early stage.

About the contributors

Ben Lewing

Ben is assistant director, policy & practice, at EIF.

Sue Chapman

Sue is a local development adviser at EIF.

Helen Burridge

Helen is a senior research officer at EIF.

Dr Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth is a research officer at EIF.

Bethan Le Maistre

Bethan is a local development adviser at EIF.