Divorce Science Research Updates 6-22-2015


Children refusing to visit a separated or divorced parent is one of the most difficult issues affecting postdivorce adjustment.  Although this is a small group of children, there are many unanswered questions.  Below is some of the most recent work in this area.

Longer list of studies published regarding parental alienation between 2010-2015.  A more complete list of research report about divorce, remarriage and stepfamilies published in 2015 or between 2010-2015.

Parental Alientation

Polak, S., & Saini, M. (2015). Children Resisting Contact With a Parent Postseparation: Assessing This Phenomenon Using an Ecological Systems Framework. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 56(3), 220-247. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2015.1012698

Trend in Children under 18 Living with Single Fathers


More children are living with their divorced or never married dads in the last 40 years, but look at what happened during the recession– more divorced dads with children and a dramatic drop for unmarried fathers.  The employment status of unmarried fathers may have something to do with this change.  More US Census Bureau demographics about living arrangements of children.

Children under 18 living with single father

 

New Child Support Research Findings


Goldberg, J. S. (2015). Coparenting and Nonresident Fathers’ Monetary Contributions to Their Children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(3), 612-627. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12191

Kane, J. B., Nelson, T. J., & Edin, K. (2015). How Much In-Kind Support Do Low-Income Nonresident Fathers Provide? A Mixed-Method Analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(3), 591-611. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12188

 

Shared Parenting Guidelines: Consensus or Not?


There has been considerable debate among scientists about the best practice and policy regarding guidelines for shared parenting.  During the past few years there have been several reviews of the research evidence regarding shared parenting following divorce and the recommendations don’t always agree.  There are two new reports each with an array of scientists and practitioners.

So here is one interesting note.  Only Richard Warshak is on both lists.

One of these reports, authored by Richard Warshak, titled, “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children:  A Consensus Report” includes the endorsement of 110 scientists and practitioners.  In the introduction he writes,

“One hundred and ten researchers and practitioners have read, provided comments, and offered revisions to this article.  They endorse the article’s conclusions and recommendations, although they may not agree with every detail of the literature review” (Warshak, 2014, p. 46).

This is an impressive list of many of the major scientists who study divorce issues.  This list includes 79 professionals who list universities or research centers as their primary affiliation and 31 professional in clinical practice.  So what about the people who are not on the list:  There are a number of prominent scientists who are not on the list.  Were they contacted?  Did they refuse because they disagreed with the recommendations or were too busy to respond?  Perhaps they just didn’t like the whole idea of “endorsing” these conclusions.  Nevertheless, none of the other participants who compiled the following report and whose names are listed below are on Warshak’s “consensus” article, why not?  At least one answer is that there is not quite the consensus that Warshak presents.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts convened a task force to explore research regarding shared parenting.  In contrast to Warshak’s “consensus” view, the task force report provides various points of view, the disagreements and the research questions that need more study.  (This is the original unpublished Task Force Report.)  The most recent version of the report was made public in Family Court Review, April 2014. The editors write, 

“The Think Tank Report describes a series of research-based key points on which the multidisciplinary think tank participants agreed. Nonetheless, that agreement did not extend to how the consensus should be enacted into legislative or judicial policy to resolve contested parenting disputes” (Emery & Schepard, 2014).

Both of these reports are important to read and to study.  Perhaps the most important part of the Task Force report is the list of questions that still need more study.  There is still much to understand in order to provide guidance to practitioners and policymakers.

So here is the list of the AFCC Task Force Members:

Convenors: 

  • Arnold Shienvold, Ph.D. (Co-Chair),
  • Peter Salem, M.A. (Co-Chair),
  • Marsha Kline Pruett, Ph.D., M.S.L. (Co-Reporter),
  • J. Herbie DiFonzo, J.D., Ph.D. (Co-Reporter),
  • Bernie Mayer, Ph.D. (Facilitator),
  • Loretta M. Frederick, J.D. (Steering Committee),
  • Hon. Ramona Gonzales (Steering Committee),
  • Stacey Platt, J.D. (Steering Committee), and
  • Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. (Steering Committee).

Participants:

  • Nicholas Bala, J.D.,
  • Lawrence Jay Braunstein, J.D.,
  • Margaret F. Brinig, J.D.,
  • Bud Dale, J.D., Ph.D.,
  • Robin Deutsch, Ph.D.,
  • Hon. Grace G. Dickler,
  • Leslie Drozd, Ph.D.,
  • Robert Emery, Ph.D.,
  • William V. Fabricius, Ph.D.,
  • Hon. William Fee,
  • Jonathan Gould, Ph.D.,
  • Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed.,
  • Hon. Dianna Gould-Saltman,
  • Grace M. Hawkins, LCSW,
  • Leslye Hunter, LMFT,
  • Janet R. Johnston, Ph.D.,
  • Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.,
  • Jennifer McIntosh, Ph.D.,
  • Anne Menard,
  • Irwin Sandler, Ph.D.,
  • Andrew Schepard, J.D.,
  • Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D., and
  • Justice R. James Williams.

Invited but unable to attend:

  • Chief Justice Diana Bryant (Family Court, Australia),
  • Jean Clinton, M.D.,
  • Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis (Colo. Sup. Ct., ret.),
  • Michael Lamb, Ph.D.,
  • Robert Marvin, Ph.D., and
  • Leslie Ellen Shear, J.D.

Shared Parenting: A Debate Among Experts


There is an extensive debate about the “right” custody policies and practices in courts and the research evidence for and against various shared parenting plans.  Much of the focus of the dispute is in regards to the evidence regarding overnight stays for young children in non-custodial parent homes.   Articles by Nielsen and Warshak make make strong critiques of the work by McIntosh that has highlighted possible negative outcomes for young children in these arrangements.  McIntosh and colleagues also present their own analysis of the evidence.  In their editorial statement for Family Court Review, Emery and Schepard note that there is not yet a consensus on all policy matters, but there are some areas of agreement.

See these articles for a deeper analysis of these issues.  

Braver, S. L. (2014). The costs and pitfalls of individualizing decisions and incentivizing conflict: A comment on AFCC’s think tank report on shared parenting. Family Court Review, 52(2), 175-180. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12079

Brinig, M. F., Frederick, L. M., & Drozd, L. M. (2014). Perspectives on joint custody presumptions as applied to domestic violence cases. Family Court Review, 52(2), 271-281. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12090

DiFonzo, J. H. (2014). From the rule of one to shared parenting: Custody presumptions in law and policy. Family Court Review, 52(2), 213-239. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12086

Emery, R. E., & Schepard, A. (2014). April 2014. Family Court Review, 52(2), 143-144. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12076

Jaffe, P. (2014). A presumption against shared parenting for family court litigants. Family Court Review, 52(2), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12081

Lamb, M. E. (2014). Dangers associated with the avoidance of evidence-based practice. Family Court Review, 52(2), 193-197. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12082

McIntosh, J. E., Pruett, M. K., & Kelly, J. B. (2014). Parental separation and overnight care of young children, part II: Putting theory into practice. Family Court Review, 52(2), 256-262. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12088

Miller, S. (2014). Judicial discretion and the voice of the child in resolving custody disputes: Comments on the think tank report. Family Court Review, 52(2), 198-199. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12083

Nielsen, L. (2013). Shared residential custody: Review of the research (part I of II). American Journal of Family Law, 27(1), 61-71. 

Nielsen, L. (2013). Shared residential custody: Review of the research (part II of II). American Journal of Family Law, 27(2), 123-137. 

Nielsen, L. (2014). Woozles: Their role in custody law reform, parenting plans, and family court. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(2), 164-180. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/law0000004

Pruett, M. K., & DiFonzo, J. H. (2014). Advancing the shared parenting debate, one step at a time: Responses to the commentaries. Family Court Review, 52(2), 207-212. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12085

Pruett, M. K., & DiFonzo, J. H. (2014). Closing the gap: Research, policy, practice, and shared parenting. Family Court Review, 52(2), 152-174. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12078

Pruett, M. K., McIntosh, J. E., & Kelly, J. B. (2014). Parental separation and overnight care of young children, part I: Consensus through theoretical and empirical integration. Family Court Review, 52(2), 240-255. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12087

Salem, P., & Shienvold, A. T. (2014). Closing the gap without getting to yes: Staying with the shared parenting debate. Family Court Review, 52(2), 145-151. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12077

Scott, E. S. (2014). Planning for children and resolving custodial disputes: A comment on the think tank report. Family Court Review, 52(2), 200-206. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12084

Ver Steegh, N., & Gould-Saltman, H. D. (2014). Joint legal custody presumptions: A troubling legal shortcut. Family Court Review, 52(2), 263-270. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12089

Warshak, R. A. (2014). Social science and parenting plans for young children: A consensus report. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(1), 46-67. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/law0000005

New Stepfamily Research Findings.


Heintz-Martin, V., Le Bourdais, C., & Hamplova, D. (2014). Childbearing among canadian stepfamilies  . Canadian Studies in Population, 41(1-2), 61-77. doi:https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/csp/article/view/21636

King, V., Thorsen, M. L., & Amato, P. R.Factors associated with positive relationships between stepfathers and adolescent stepchildren. Social Science Research, (0) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.03.010

Reducing Stepmothers’ Stress


Stepparents will tell you that this is a hard and stressful role.  Stepmothers in particular have many challenges.  Although there is much research that supports this finding, there is still relatively little understanding of the mechanisms and factors that contribute to this stress.  And there is even less information about what we can do about it.

Recent work by Danielle Shapiro at the University of Michigan provides some new insights about the parenting stress experienced by stepmothers.  She notes that in general couples with higher quality marriages report less parenting stress and writes, “…this was particularly pronounced for stepparents. In addition, stepparents with traditional gender views reported higher levels of parenting stress…  for stepparents, both nontraditional gender views and high marital quality jointly predicted the greatest protection from parenting stress. In fact, stepparents with both high marital adjustment and nontraditional gender views were indistinguishable in terms of parenting stress from biological parents, while stepparents who were low on one or both of these dimensions experienced substantially more parenting stress.”

Shapiro suggests that programs and treatment programs for stepparents should include attention to gender roles and marital quality as ways to address parental stress.

Shapiro, D. (2014). Stepparents and parenting stress: The roles of gender, marital quality, and views about gender roles. Family Process, 53(1), 97-108. doi:10.1111/famp.12062

More 2014 studies on stepparenting and stepfamilies…..

Doodson, L. J., & Davies, A. P. C. (2014). Different challenges, different well-being: A comparison of psychological well-being across stepmothers and biological mothers and across four categories of stepmothers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(1), 49-63. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.862094

Ganong, L., & Coleman, M. (2014). Responsibility inferences and intergenerational obligations to parents and stepparents: Are Step/Children less obligated when older adults are at fault for their problems? Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(1), 64-81. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.862098

Nuru, A. K., & Wang, T. R. (2014). “She was stomping on everything that we used to think of as a family”: Communication and turning points in cohabiting (step)families. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(2), 145-163. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.871957