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Strains placed on relationships by baby arrival

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In The Times today there is reference to a study 'Sleep Sex and Sacrifice' which examines the stresses and strains placed on relationships by the arrival of a baby.

The study was based on a survey of 1403 parents, a third of whom were classed as 'new parents'. The study found that 23% are no longer in a relationship with the person with whom they had their first child.  Just over two fifths of these respondents split up during pregnancy or before their baby was 3.

The arrival of a new baby is usually greeted with celebration and joy. The reality of being responsible for a helpless infant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can often be a long way from the romanticised image of parenthood we are fed by certain sections of the media.

Recognising the stresses and strains in yourself, your partner and in relationships is a vitally important first step in the process of remedying problems or indeed avoiding them altogether.

A failure to address these issues can result in such serious problems that they lead to relationship breakdown. Alternatively, bottling up emotions and feelings of frustration with your partner can in rare cases lead to the momentary loss of control which is the hallmark of most child protection cases especially those involving a shaking injury. The sort of injury which can result in brain damage and fractures. Thankfully these cases are rare but they do affect parents across the social spectrum.

The parents who injure their children are not, apart from the exceptional case, evil people. They are ordinary people pushed beyond their own breaking point by a combination of circumstances. These include tiredness, social isolation, frustration, feeling inadequate, feeling let down by a partner, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Simple steps can be taken to avoid the risk of causing harm. Being self aware, communicating with your partner, family and friends, asking for help, using your support networks. Every parent has gone through a low point and to a greater or lesser extent experienced the same feelings of anxiety, loneliness and frustration which can lead to a child being hurt. So it is not a weakness to talk about it. It is a sign of strength and self awareness.

It is a fact of life that the break down of a relationship or an inflicted injury to a child can become a legal issue. If this happens to you or someone they know then expert advice and representation is the key to a successful outcome. Nothing is more important than your children.

By Mike Devlin, family law partner