International Commission on Couple and Family Relations

2013 Keynotes

Keynote Presentation 1

‘Early intervention: taking Britain beyond the social and economic failure of late intervention’

Speaker: Graham Allen MP

Graham will be giving a presentation on the important role the Early Intervention Foundation can play in breaking the intergenerational cycle of deprivation that blights thousands of high-risk groups and communities throughout the UK. He will be explaining that by giving babies, children and young people the social and emotional bedrock to succeed, government can save vast sums of money by making sure that the social (not anti-social) skills in babies are developed. He will talk about the powerful consortium that he has organised to allow the Early Intervention Foundation to become the voice for promoting, fostering and evaluating the impact of early intervention.


Keynote Presentation 2

‘The law: hero or villain of early intervention initiatives?’

Presenter: David Hodson

Early interventions in the context of actual or possible relationship breakdowns include: encouraging reconciliations to avoid a breakdown, counselling to help understand a breakdown and avoid using the legal process as a form of therapy, information about alternatives to litigation such as mediation and other out-of-court resolutions, knowledge about impact on children and how to improve parenting on and after separation, pre-relationship information and education including marital agreements, and other similar means of avoiding unnecessary conflict and creating prospects for respect, integrity and stability.

This is an incredibly high demand and expectation. It is perhaps one of the most fundamental areas of development in family policy around the world.

The role of the law, lawyers and legal procedures is central but not foundational. Specifically, the law and processes can totally work against any early intervention initiatives and destroy any prospects of beneficial outcomes. This might be encouraging the fast and unilateral issuing of divorce petitions, lack of access to legal advice, wrong or bad information in the public arena, disincentives to mediate and resolve out-of-court, and many others. Equally, the law and legal processes can be highly enabling to encourage early initiatives and discourage too quick and easy referral to court, yet having to balance fundamental human rights.

This law keynote speech will look at the development in England and Wales of various forms of family law early intervention, the expectations, successes and failures, and then analyse where the law can help in that process and then specifically look at where the law works in practice against early intervention. It will include an overview of some international elements in other countries.


Keynote Presentation 3

Presenters: Philip and Carolyn Cowan

Carolyn and Phil Cowan will describe an approach to strengthening couple and parent–child relationships by working with parents as couples. We describe how our early interventions for working-class and middle-class families set the stage for providing couples groups for low-income families from different ethnic backgrounds – first in California, and most recently in the UK. By focusing on the relationship challenges of parents of young children, the Cowans’ longitudinal intervention results show that fathers’ positive involvement with their children increased, parenting stress declined and parents’ satisfaction with their relationship as couples and co-parents was maintained. This led to more effective parenting styles and enhanced the children’s social, cognitive and academic development and well-being. The Cowans argue that current parenting programmes, primarily attended by mothers, and marriage education programmes that ignore parent–child relationships, could benefit from a more integrated approach that involves fathers and strengthens couple relationships.