Parental Alienation– An Update 2015


Parental alienation continues to be a disputed concept among researchers, clinicians and legal experts.  I have updated my list of research articles on this topic (2010-2015).

For a thoughtful history of the study and controversies regarding parental alienation see:

Rand, D. C. (2011). Parental alienation critics and the politics of science. American Journal of Family Therapy, 39(1), 48-71. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2010.533085

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New Report on State Laws About Shared Parenting


A national organization of parents who support “shared parenting” after divorce have issued a new report that rates states regarding their state law on this issue.  This map shows their rankings, see the report.  Shared Parenting Rating by National Parents Organization

Relationship Scientists Divorce– Some Advice


Rarely to the scientists who study relationships provide a glimpse into their own personally challenging relationships in such an intimate and powerful way… Charlotte and Patrick Markey begin their story about divorce as follows…

“We have been a romantic couple for almost 20 years, married for 13 years, produced two wonderful children, moved across the country for academic jobs, conducted numerous scientific studies examining romantic couples, and…will soon be divorced. How could two people who study why romantic couples fail or succeed be such utter failures themselves? The answer is easy: we are human. Like everyone else we have faults. We argue. We disagree. We neglect. We make bad choices. In the past, we have always been able to survive these shortcomings.”  for further reading…

Science of Relationships has many interesting articles about relationships.

Program for Society for Research in Adolescence– SRA, 2014


There are very few presentations about divorce and single-parenthood at the bi-annual meetings of the Society for Research in Adolescence, but here are the four sessions I found listed on their program.

Thursday, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (Event 1-024) Poster Session 02 Governor’s Ballroom, Floor 4 Thursday, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

# 16 Neighborhood Contributions to Positive Parenting and Youth Externalizing Problems in African American Single-Mother Families Jessica Cuellar, Deborah Jones, Stephanie Lane, Rex Forehand, Gene Brody (University of Georgia)

Thursday, 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm (Event 1-058) Poster Session 04 Governor’s Ballroom, Floor 4 Thursday, 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm

Coping with Parental Divorce: A Qualitative Exploration of Young Adults’ Retrospective Accounts  Marysia Lazinski, Marion Ehrenberg, Ashley Burbidge (University of Victoria)

Thursday, 4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (Event 1-076) Poster Session 05 Governor’s Ballroom, Floor 4 Thursday, 4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

# 62 Examining correlates of divorce attitudes: Gender, personality, relationship self-efficacy, and exposure to marital conflict  Dana Krieg (Kenyon College), Claire Greenfield, LeighAnne White, Emily Hage, Zoe Smith

Friday, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (Event 2-024) Poster Session 06 Governor’s Ballroom, Floor 4 Friday, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

# 53 Women like SAHD Ben, but men don’t: Gender differences in emerging adults’ perceptions of family arrangements.  Dana Krieg (Kenyon College), Zoe Smith, Claire Greenfield, LeighAnne White, Emily Hage

 

Should infants sleep overnight with nonresidential fathers: The debate continues


One of the most complicated and often contentious issues for separating parents is whether or not very young children (under age 3) should spend the night in both households.  On the one hand, many advocates of continued father involvement encourage dads to stay involved and some of these dads want to keep their children overnight.  However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that young children’s well-being may be adversely affected by frequent overnight stays for young children.

Samantha Tornello and colleagues (2013) published some important new evidence that suggests that frequent overnight stays by infants and toddlers with their non-reseidential fathers can contribute to insecure attachments.  (Note:  Attachment has been found to be a strong predictor of child and adult psychological adjustment and seems to be the foundation of positive relationships with others (See Bretherton, et al., 2011).  

In February 2014, Paul Millar and Edward Kruk published an article taking issue with some of the analyses and interpretations in the Tornello et al. paper.  Two of the authors of the original paper (Emery & Tornello, 2014) responded to the issues raised by Millar and Kruk.  Some of the critique by Millar and Kruk appears to be confusion about whether the findings.  Due to the mislabeling of a table (Table 5), Millar and Kruk interpreted these finding in the opposite direction of Tornello et al.  Many of their other criticisms such as the validity of the attachment measure and the limits of the sample are important and require careful interpretation of the findings, but await other evidence to determine whether these findings hold up.  At the moment 4 out 5 studies of this issue have found that overnight stays by infants and/or toddlers leads to attachment issues.

The one issue raised by Millar and Kruk that was not addressed by Emery and Tornello is the attachment of these children to other caregivers– the non-residential fathers, grandparents, child care providers, etc.  I have not looked carefully at the other information we know about the participants in the Fragile Families study, but these families were “fragile families.”  Could staying overnight with non-residential fathers represent the degree of chaos in the mothers’ household rather than “paternal involvement?”  How are the residents in the “father’s household”– grandparents or not? i don’t know the answers to these questions, but it would be good to find out more about these issues.

Finally, all of the studies to date have some limitations and this evidence cannot be described as definitive.  This is a complicated issue and no single study should be the basis for policy and practice by America’s court system, but this new work by Tornello and colleagues has provided a thoughtful analysis.  

For references and further reading on these issues see the following:   

Bretherton, I, Seligman, S, Solomon, J, Crowell, J. McIntosh, J. (2011). “If I could tell the judge something about attachment…” Perspectives on attachment theory in the family
law courtroom. Family Court Review, 49, 539-548.  doi: 10.1111/j.1744-1617.2011.01391.x

Emery, R. E., & Tornello, S. L. (2014). Rejoinder to Millar and Kruk (2014): Who assumes the burden of proof when there is no neutral null hypothesis? Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(1), 237-240. doi:10.1111/jomf.12070

George, C., Solomon, J. and McIntosh, J, (2011). Divorce in the Nursery: On infants and overnight care. Family Court Review, 49, 521-529. doi:  10.1111/j.1744-1617.2011.01389.x

McIntosh, J., Smyth, B., Kelaher, M., Wells, Y., & Long, C. (2010). Post-separation parenting arrangements and developmental outcomes for infants and children. Canberra, Australia: Attorney General’s Department.

Millar, P., & Kruk, E. (2014). Maternal attachment, paternal overnight contact, and very young children’s adjustment: Comment on Tornello et al. (2013). Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(1), 232-236. doi:10.1111/jomf.12071 

Solomon, J., & George, C. (1999). The development of attachment in separated and divorced families: Effects of overnight visitation, parent, and couple variables. Attachment and Human Development, 1, 2-33.  doi:  10.1080/14616739900134011

Solomon, J., & George, C. (1999). The effects of overnight visitation in divorced and separated families: A longitudinal follow-up. In J. Solomon & C. George (Eds.), Attachment Disorganization (pp. 243-264). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Tornello, S. L., Emery, R., Rowen, J., Potter, D., Ocker, B. and Xu, Y. (2013), Overnight Custody Arrangements, Attachment, and Adjustment Among Very Young Children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75, 871–885. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12045

Loss of “mundane talk” creates challenges for non-residential parents


Professor Stephanie Rollie Rodriguez at Texas A&M– Corpus Christi has published an interesting examination of what she describes as the “mundane talk” that provides the foundation for “maintaining nonresidential parent–child relationships” and the challenges faced by non-residential parents.  She writes, Parents “who have limited interactions struggle to “know” their children, while those with frequent interaction with their children have access to the mundane stories of their children’s lives, which helps to maintain the relationships.”

This research emphasizes the need for non-residential parents to have many ways of maintaining communication with their children even if not physically present and the need for non-residential parents and their children to share information updates about the time they are not together.  This communication is key to continued close relationships.

 

Post-Divorce Coparenting of Children with Chronic Illness


Parenting Children With Special Health Needs

November 9, 2013 Time:   8:15 am – 9:30 am   Bonham C

Post-divorce Coparenting of Children With Chronic Illness

Presented by: Luke Russell, Lawrence Ganong, Marilyn Coleman, Debra Gayer

The CDC (2010) estimates that between 2.5% and 3% of all single-parent and stepfamily households include a child with at least one chronic illness.  Because family variables are related to children’s health outcomes and adherence to treatment plans, it’s important to better understand how post-divorce coparenting dyads arrange and organize their relationships (Chesla, 2010).  A grounded theory study was conducted with divorced parents of children with chronic illnesses.  Preliminary results suggest that parents who are more satisfied with their coparenting engage in minimizing accusations of incompetency, developing a “patch-it” mentality, and seeking relationships with medical providers as trusted consultants.