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Guideline for family problems / PREVENTING: 1.2 Limiting the disclosure of inappropriate information

Interventions and evidence explained

Most plausible interventions explained

During a first assessment of the available literature, we were able to identify an intervention for sharing information with children, this being: parents limiting the disclosure of information about the separation.

Selected interventions for comparison (defined as a PICO question)

For children, is actively limiting disclosure of information about the other parent more effective than sharing all information for their well-being?

Search strategy

The databases used are: HeinOnline, Westlaw, Wiley Online Library, JSTOR and Taylor & Francis.

For this PICO question, keywords used in the search strategy are: communication, parental conflict, separation, divorce, children, information, revealing, disclosure.

Assessment and grading of evidence

The main sources of evidence used for this particular subject are:

Quality of evidence and research gap

The article by Sanders, Halford and Behrens is based on a detailed observational analysis of couples’ interaction. The article by Afifi, McManus, Hutchinson and Baker bases its findings mostly on clinical and empirical evidence. The article by Schrodt and Afifi uses both empirical and meta-analysis to support its findings. According to the HiiL Methodology: Assessment of Evidence and Recommendations, the strength of this evidence is classified as ‘low’ to ‘moderate’.

Comparing the two interventions

Desirable outcomes of the interventions

It is important to note that, based on uncertainty reduction theory, children need some information about the separation in order to reduce their uncertainty about the state of their family (Afifi, McManus, p. 80).

Undesirable outcomes of the intervention

Research has shown that parents’ inappropriate disclosures give children psychological distress, physical ailments and feelings of being caught between their parents (Afifi, McManus, p. 79). Examples of inappropriate information are: negative information about the other parent (including complaints on lack of child-support), sensitive information and information judged not to be suitable (such as on financial issues, the reason for separation and personal concerns of the parent), and information that makes children feel caught between their parents (Schrodt, p. 209). If children are completely uninformed about the separation, they can feel deceived, which can produce mistrust, diminished satisfaction with their parental communication, and a fear of establishing committed romantic relationships upon maturity (Afifi, McManus, p. 80). It can be difficult to for some parents to determine the fine line between disclosing the right amount of information and inappropriate information.

Balance of Outcomes

In determining whether actively limiting disclosure of information to children about the other parent is more effective than sharing all information for their well-being, the desirable and undesirable outcomes of both interventions must be considered. The available literature suggests that certain information is not to be disclosed for the sake of the wellbeing of the child. In particular, revealing negative information about one parent would have severe negative effect physically and psychologically in both the long and short term. This type of information is classified as ‘inappropriate’. However, it is important to keep in mind that children should be informed during the separation process.


In light of the undesired outcomes of revealing inappropriate information to children, we make the following recommendation: For the well-being of children, it is appropriate that parents disclose information on the separation, albeit in a considered and limited way.

Table of Contents

1. Recommendations on PREVENTING
1.2 Limiting disclosure to inappropriate information