Facilitating relationship support for ‘mixed’ couples and families: a collaborative approach, delivery and evaluation.
Submitting InstitutionLondon South Bank University
Unit of AssessmentSocial Work and Social Policy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
This impact case study demonstrates how research has benefitted mixed
couples in their relationships as well as charitable and other
organisations engaged in supporting `mixed' couples.
Impact relates specifically to:
(i) development and deployment by charities and professional agencies of
e-learning resources to support people in `mixed' relationships and
(ii) increased awareness and understanding by `mixed' couples and
families, and professionals, of issues relating to specific `mixed'
relationships in difference to those faced by all couples;
(iii) the improved efficiency and effectiveness of charities and
professional bodies in dealing with `mixed' couple matters.
This case study is underpinned by related research from two separate
projects funded by the ESRC and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)
respectively, during the period 2002 and 2008.
The Families & Social Capital Research Group (the Families Group (www.lsbu.ac.uk/families)) was
funded by the ESRC (RES-189-25-0115; £2.84million; 2002-6; Director:
Rosalind Edwards (Professor of Social Policy at LSBU until December 2010,
now at Southampton University).
The Families Group programme involved a number of multi-disciplinary,
multi-themed projects, two of which explored transnational family
relationships — `families that have members elsewhere, yet retain a sense
of unity'; (i) Transnational African-Caribbean families project,
led by Dr Tracey Reynolds (Senior Research Fellow, LSBU, 2000 to date) and
(ii) Transnational Italian Families led by Dr Elisabetta
Zontini (Research Fellow, LSBU 2003 until 2008, now University of
Nottingham). Both projects focused on the ways in which families from
different ethnic groups maintain relationships across distances, and the
different ways in which they do so.
The related project funded by the JRF Parenting `Mixed' Children
(PI: Professor Edwards, Co-I: Dr Chamion Caballero (Research Fellow);
£122k, 2006-2008) aimed to provide insights about parenting mixed children
to inform debates about family life and offer professional strategies for
support. Focusing on `mixed' mothers and fathers living together, it:
- investigated how parents from different racial, ethnic and/or faith
backgrounds give their children a sense of belonging and identity;
- examined parents' approaches to cultural difference and how they pass
on aspects of belonging and heritage across generations;
- explored the opportunities, constraints, challenges and tensions in
negotiating a sense of identity and heritage between parents.
Key insights and findings from the above projects identified a range of
important issues around `mixed' couple relationships, where dis-junctures
in expectations, between partners themselves, their families and the wider
communities can surface. These included:
- Potentially complex shifts in how `mixed' couples understand
difficulties between them as rooted in cultural difference or personal
attributes and viewpoint (1-6).
- Caribbean-origin and West African-origin mixed couples can experience
tensions in raising children between them and their extended kin in
terms of culture and language issues. However, couples also feel that
they appreciate their differences and have access to wider social
resources (1, 2, 6).
- The findings from the African-Caribbean and Italian
Families studies indicated that `mixed' families experience
challenges of adjustment, but also opportunities to bridge ethnic and
racial divides. The opportunities are often taken for granted and are
rarely considered (1, 2, 6).
- Findings from the Parenting `Mixed' Children study
showed that `mixed' couples use a variety of approaches to give their
children a sense of belonging and identity which are not necessarily
associated with particular racial or faith combinations (3, 4, 5).
- Approaches include: Individual: children's sense of belonging
not rooted in their mixed background; Mix: all aspects of
children's mixed background are emphasised; and Single: one
aspect of children's mixed background is stressed (4, 5).
- Couples whose approaches differed are not necessarily in conflict. For
some, divergent approaches are complementary. Others see difficulties
between them as humanistic, political or personality choices (4, 5).
- Supportive or constraining resources and relationships for parents'
ability to create a sense of belonging include neighbourhoods, schools,
and grandparents. What is supportive for some can be a drawback for
others, depending on context (3, 4, 5).
The above research findings have significant implications for helping
mixed race families and associated support agencies to understand, address
and resolve relationship and social ethnicity-related issues.
References to the research
1. Goulbourne, H., Reynolds , T., Solomos, J. & Zontini, E. (2010), Transnational
Families: Ethnicities, identities and social capital, Routledge,
2. Reynolds, T. (2011) "Birds of a Feather Stick Together"? Negotiating
Community, Family and Intimate Relationships between 'Established' and
'Newcomer' Caribbean Migrants in Britain, Community Work and Family, 6
3. Smith, D., Edwards, R. and Caballero, C. (2011), `The residential
patterns of mixed-ethnicity couples and families in England and Wales:
`hidden' and `emerging' local geographies of contemporary society?' in Environment
and Planning A, Vol 43, No. 5, pp1455-1476.
4. Edwards, R., Caballero, C. and Puthussery. S. (2010), `Parenting
Children from `Mixed' Racial, Ethnic and Faith Backgrounds: Typifications
of Difference and Belonging' in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol 33,
No.6, pp 949-967.
5. Edwards, R and Caballero, C. (2008), What's in a name? An exploration
of the significance of personal naming of `mixed' children for parents
from different racial, ethnic and faith backgrounds', The Sociological
Review, 56:1, 39-60.
6. Reynolds, T., (2010), Transnational Family Networks, Cultural
Belonging and Social Capital among Second-Generation British-Caribbean
`Returning' Migrants in Special Issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies
on `Young People, Social Capital and Ethnic Identity', 33 (5): 797-815
7. Bauer, E., Houlston, C., Coleman, L. and Edwards, R. (2012). An
Academic And Voluntary Sector Collaboration to Facilitate Relationship
Support for `Mixed' Couples and Families: Project Report. Families &
Social Capital Research Group Working Paper No. 31. Families & Social
Capital Research Group: London South Bank University.
Details of the impact
In response to the ESRC directive for its funded research to be
transformed into useful materials offering benefits in the wider world,
LSBU approached and collaborated with OnePlusOne (www.oneplusone.org.uk),
a leading voluntary agency concerned with personal and family
relationships support. Through an ESRC-funded Follow-On project (PI: Prof
Ros Edwards; Co-I: Dr Lester Coleman (OnePlusOne); £100k; September 2010 -
December 2011) LSBU and OnePlusOne worked with three key voluntary
organisations that support "mixed" couples and families: viz. People in
Harmony (www.pih.org.uk), Intermix (www.intermix.org.uk) and Mix
The Impact reported to the ESRC from the above follow-on project is
available at (1).
The project adapted findings from the two linked research projects on
"mixed" (racial, ethnic and faith) couples and family relationships into
on-line support texts, video and e-learning resources, specifically for:
- individuals, `mixed' couples and their families who wanted to
strengthen their relationship (via OnePlusOne's
- voluntary agencies involved in counselling and supporting couples and
families (via theCoupleConnection.net); and
- training for professionals who work with `mixed' couples and their
families (via OnePlusOne's e-Learning training resource).
The resources were launched initially as a pilot during July/August 2011
and re-launched on theCoupleConnection.net web site in November 2011.
Resources from the project have been piloted through 60 front line
practitioners, specifically aimed at helping parents deal with conflict in
ways that minimise harm to children. The resources have become part of
OnePlusOne's e-learning training programme delivered to 4000 Children
Centre professionals and workers nationally (1).
Independent consultants have confirmed the following impact (2):
- Awareness raised and established norms challenged: misperceptions of
stereotypes of mixed couples have been contested, providing awareness of
the diversity of such relationships (three conferences held (Edinburgh,
Nov 2011; London Feb 2012; Cardiff Jul 2012), two seminars (London, Dec
2011; Jan 2012), plus review of the resources in eg The Runnymede Trust
Bulletin (3)). The ESRC also used the project as an exemplar of
- Improved social welfare, equality and social inclusion: through the
provision of new targeted resources for OnePlusOne which are more
feature rich, widely distributed and collaborative with key higher
education and other key partners (1).
- Reach of the resources and understanding: the resources have gone
beyond just use by the immediate collaborators and beneficiaries, e.g.
Sure Start and Health Start centres, midwives, GPs and the professional
body, the Royal College of General Practitioners, have all made use of
the resource materials.
- Frontline practitioners working with couples and families who
undertake the OnePlusOne training programme have shown robust evidence
of its effectiveness.
In summary, OnePlusOne stated that, in addition to reinforcing their
approach of transforming research findings into useful resources, this
Follow-On project with LSBU has also extended the scope of their services
into new areas of couple and family relationships (2).
Other collaborators in the Follow-On project stated that:
- "the existence of the materials makes me and my other 8 colleagues
at Intermix 20% more efficient — that means the resources are doing the
job we would have had to do and therefore we can see greater numbers of
people and we are seeing better outcomes" (4).
- "as a result of using the materials on our site Intermix is seeing
better outcomes and increased conflict resolution" (4).
- "the resources are just as useful for people that support mixed
couples as mixed couples themselves" (5)
Recognising the value and importance of its interactions with
universities, Intermix has appointed an academic (Dr Caballero, LSBU) to
the role of research director.
The `mixed' families' resources derived from the underpinning research
were evaluated at the end of the project (2011) by the couples involved in
the making of the resources, users (`mixed' couples), and academics and
representatives from `mixed' race organisations. Feedback via surveymonkey
shows the `mixed` couples resources to be useful, relevant to issues that
`mixed` couples and their families face and have encountered, and are
helpful in understanding their situation better.
Email testimonials received by the research team about the resources
"I watched the videos you made with the couples and read some of the
materials. I found the viewing material to be of great interest and was
most fascinated to see that a lot of the opinions and feelings that the
couples had regarding being in a mixed race relationship were very
similar to the opinions held by myself and my husband".
"I did watch the video clips and read some of the responses. It helps
a lot knowing that there are more people out there like me. I think that
the videos and comments of couples are accurate on the stresses we face
... all in all I believe what you have done is an excellent job"
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Visit Report of Independent Consultants (The Innovation Partnership),
2013. Contact: Managing Director, The Innovation Partnership — relates
to an interview with a Director of OnePlusOne.
- Review of the resources in The Runnymede Trust Bulletin (www.runnymedetrust.org
Issue 367, 2011).
- Statement: Manager, Intermix.
- Statement: Trustee, People in Harmony.
- Confidential emails from users of the OnePlusOne resources. (can be
provided by LSBU subject to confidentiality being preserved.)