Survey reveals urgent need to support relationships and families in post-pandemic Britain


In a report published by couple therapy charity Tavistock Relationships, looking at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on couples, families and children, 40 per cent of all those surveyed (2,093 people) said the pandemic has caused additional stress for their children and wider family, and 73 per cent said children in families where their parents are in conflict could be helped if their parents seek relationship support.

Andrew Balfour, CEO of Tavistock Relationships, says: “The results of our YouGov survey paint a worrying picture of the state of couples and families in post-pandemic Britain, and demonstrate an urgent need to support families and relationships to improve both adult and child mental health.

“Four out of ten respondents felt that the experience of lockdown would have long-term impacts on their mental health, and a similar number said that the pandemic caused additional stress for their children and wider family. It is especially concerning that separated parents have particularly struggled, with 68 per cent of them saying the pandemic had caused additional family difficulties.

“The message from this survey seems clear: family relationships are under strain - and people believe that couple and family relationships need support now, just as our mental health does. Indeed, the experience of the pandemic has brought home to us what research has long shown: in many respects relationship health is mental health. When relationships are in trouble, our mental health suffers.

“With effective relationship support, we see significant improvements in mental health as well as in relationship quality. For example, year on year, figures released by NHS Digital indicate that couple therapy is one of the most effective psychological treatments for depression and anxiety1.

“This is so important not just for the wellbeing of parents, but for their children too. Those children whose parents are in poor mental health are more vulnerable to developing such problems themselves. This association has increased since the pandemic, as our most vulnerable families have become more disadvantaged than ever. While some may have

benefited from the opportunity to spend more time with their partners and families during the pandemic, for a significant number of families, life has become much harder.

“We are encouraged to see that so many of the people we polled recognized that intense, frequent and unresolved conflict between parents can have on their children’s development, with more than eight out of ten respondents acknowledging that this can affect children’s sleep as well as their academic achievement.

“It is heartening also to see such a high level of awareness of the benefits of relationship support for parents with almost half (43 per cent) of all those surveyed (2,093) recognizing that this will improve the quality of life of their children.

“It’s clear that by investing in relationships we can improve both adult and child mental health, and save money further down the line by better supporting struggling families in this way.

“We are calling on the government to increase access to relationship support for families across the UK, and to build upon the success of programmes such as Reducing Parental Conflict (RPC), funded by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). The problem which the RPC programme was originally intended to address – namely, inter-generational cycles of deprivation caused by the damaging impacts of inter-parental conflict on children’s developmental outcomes – has been made worse by the pandemic.

“For the Government’s ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda to have lasting and meaningful results, we must support the relationships and mental health of all families, particularly those who have suffered differentially badly as a result of the pandemic, so that levelling up can begin at home.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,093 adults, of which 1,401 were in a relationship. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22 and 23 July 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

For a copy of Tavistock Relationships ‘Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on couples, families and children’ report, go to

For more information about couple and individual therapy, go to or call 020 7380 1960.


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Notes to Editors

Established in 1948 in the wake of the Second World War, when traumatized families were in crisis, Tavistock Relationships remains relevant and at the forefront of clinical, research and policy thinking about couples today. The organisation specialises in relationship counselling and psychotherapy, and runs a series of programmes and interventions to support families. Over 120 professionals provide over 20,000 clinical sessions each year, helping thousands of people with their relationships. @TaviRelations

Reducing Parental Conflict Programme

Tavistock Relationships, alongside other partner organisations, delivers the Department for Work & Pensions Reducing Parental Conflict programme in Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, as well as seven London boroughs (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Croydon, Brent and Lambeth). Sixty-seven per cent of participants in free parenting programmes, which are available to couples still together or co-parenting apart, report a decrease in conflict in their couple relationship, 62 per cent report an improvement in communication with their partner, and 53 per cent improvements in their child’s wellbeing