2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Nice Graphic about Marriage & Divorce Statistics in US


GoFigure breaks down who's staying together and who's breaking up.

Source:LiveScience

National Council on Family Relations– Divorce Presentations, Nov 19-22


The following presentations will be given at the annual meetings of the National Council on Family Relations, being next week, Nov 19-22.  Will link to copies of the papers and posters as they become available.

Wednesday, Nov 19

Fatherhood in Changing Times (Live Stream)

11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m., lightning paper session

  • Father Involvement, Co-Parenting, and Adolescent Mothers’ Maternal Identity

Poster Session 4 – coparenting, divorce, stepfamilies

6:15-7 p.m., poster session

  • Parenting Together: Co-parenting Education for Never Married Parents
  • Coparental Cooperation and Conflict Following Divorce
  • Residential Mobility After Divorce: Implications for Divorce Education
  • Maintaining Relationships with Former Stepgrandchildren Following Remarriage Dissolution
  • Children’s Depression Change Over Time During the Process of Parents’ Divorce
  • The Stress Process of Divorce for Fathers
  • Multi-Systemic Constraints to Help Seeking Prior to Finalizing a Divorce
  • Family Relationships and Depression Among African American Stepfathers

Thursday, Nov 20

Sexual Coercion, Sexual Abuse, and Relational Violence

10-11:15 a.m., paper session

  • Violence, Coercive Control and Help-Seeking Among Divorcing Mothers
  • A Grounded Theory Analysis of Mothers’ Experiences of Nonviolent Coercive Control in Marriage and After Separation

Relationships After Remarriage

1:15-2:30 p.m., paper session

  • Marriage Order and Relationship Stability: A Propensity Score Analysis
  • Marital Happiness and Dyadic Interaction Patterns in Remarriage
  • Parental Role Negotiation Among Couples in Stepfather Families
  • Stepgrandparents’ Relationships with Stepgrandchildren

Friday, Nov 21

Coparenting

8:30-9:45 a.m., paper session

  • Prenatal Volatility in Daily Couple Closeness Predicts Postnatal Coparenting
  • Associations Between Coparenting and Infant-Parent Attachment Concordance
  • Coparenting Perceptions Across the Transition to Second-time Parenthood
  • Violence, Boundary Ambiguity, & Coparenting Quality Among Divorcing Mothers

Family Therapy Roundtable Symposium

2:45-4 p.m., roundtable symposium

  • Coparenting through Divorce: Key Factors and Best Practices for Creating Change

Saturday, Nov 22

Examining the Impact and Process of Union Dissolution (Live Stream)

8:30-9:45 a.m., paper session

  • Is Union Dissolution Always Harmful? Child Outcomes in Fragile Families
  • When are Union Transitions Bad for Children? Variation by Fathers’ and Mothers’ Characteristics
  • Do Attitudes About Cohabitation Mediate the Effects of Parental Cohabitation and Remarriage Happiness on Emerging Adults’ Risk Attitudes About Sex?
  • Divorced Yet Still Together: Ongoing Personal Relationship Among Divorced Co-parents

Relationship Development Across Time

8:30-9:45 a.m., paper session

  • Patterns of Stability and Marital Satisfaction in Newlywed Couples

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

Coparenting Children with Disabilities by Jeremy Kanter


Although divorce rates are high among parents of children with disabilities (e.g., Hartley, Barker, Seltzer, Greenberg,  Bolt, Floyd, & Orsmond, 2010) coparenting education classes are just beginning to develop tracks, components, or programs for separating or divorcing parents who have children with disabilities. At the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) annual conference last month, the fact that coparenting education classes have neglected to attend to special circumstances linked to coparenting a child with a disability was discussed in a few of the sessions I attended.  I followed up with a few coparenting education classes when I returned from the conference and was energized to learn that some of the online programs are beginning to address this issue!

Michelle Muncy of Online Parenting Programs is one example of an online program that is planning to develop an online coparenting education program for parents who are coparenting children with disabilities. Focus on Kids, an online coparenting education class developed by Dr. David Schramm and colleagues at The University of Missouri is another example. Focus on Kids now offers fact sheets for families with special circumstances. The fact sheets that Dr. Schramm and colleagues have created for divorcing parents who have children with disabilities cover a range of topics that are especially relevant to this special circumstance; some of the topics include:

 

  • Custodial rights or what to expect as a primary caregiver of a child with a disability
  • How to divide medical costs for children with disabilities
  • The children’s cognitive capacity to understand their parents’ divorce
  • Special issues that need to be documented in parenting plans
  • Issues specific to children who have life-threatening, chronic, psychological & behavioral disabilities

With the high divorce rates for parents of children with disabilities, some of these issues in the Focus on Kids’ fact sheets are crucial components to coparenting education. Although many parents experience similar challenges when going through the separation or divorce process, it is important for programs to address the unique needs and challenges linked to families with special circumstances. Special circumstances are not limited to children with disabilities; coparenting when intimate partner violence, alcoholism, or military duties influence parents’ roles also provide unique challenges in the separation processes. In some situations, one parent may be largely absent from the child’s life, and these families may benefit from additional support in educational settings (online or face-to-face). Although the transition to tailoring information to families with special circumstances has been slow, it is promising to see that programs have begun to address these issues!

How Extensive Can a 4 Hour Program Be? by Jill Bowers


Although laws vary from state to state, 4 hours is the most common, mandated dosage for divorce or coparenting education classes.  In other words, many parents (of children under 18 years old)  are required to spend approximately 4 hours in a coparenting education class before a judge will grant the divorce.  The coparenting education classes are designed to help parents manage conflict and communicate cooperatively with their coparent to ensure their child(ren) successfully adjust with transitions throughout the divorce or separation process. But is 4 hours enough?

Reviews of divorce education programs reveal that coparenting education classes largely cover topics surrounding children’s adjustments and how parents can help the.  Scholars suggest that these classes could be improved with additional content that includes more emphasis on adult and court-focused content (see Blaisure & Geasler, 1996 or Bowers et al., 2011). Discussions in the divorce literature and presentations at the 2013 AFCC Conference indicate that coparenting education programs would benefit from including more focus on the following topics:

  • The emotional turmoil surrounding adult adjustments to divorce, including differences in love anger and sadness surrounding “the leaver” and “the left” (see Emery’s book, Renegotiating Family Relationships)
  • Parenting plans
  • Court processes, such as difficult terminology, what happens with mediation, or examples of how parents could handle the legal aspects of divorce
  • Topics specific to families with special circumstances (i.e., children with special needs, domestic violence, military family relationships, substance abuse); for a few examples, see Holtzworth-Munroe, 2011 for discussion of court issues and domestic violence

These are just a few of the topics that scholars have recommended for improvements to program content. Additionally, researchers call for skill-building techniques (e.g., opportunities for parents to practice approaching or reacting to their coparent; see Geasler and Blaisure’s 1998 work or Salem and colleagues’ 2013 article for examples).  At the same time, if parents are only required to attend 4 hours of education (or less in some states), program administrators struggle to fit all of the topics parents could benefit from within that time frame. Administrators of online coparenting education programs could potentially have additional hours or sections of content that parents could explore on their own.  In fact, some programs do offer additional content (for example, programs may offer 6, 8, or 10 hour versions), but parents generally complete what they are required to take to fulfill court mandates.  Thus, implications for the future of coparenting education include, but are not limited to:

  • policy makers to consider extending the amount of time parents are required to spend in these classes,
  • researchers, court personnel, and program administrators to work together to ensure the content that is being covered within the 4 hour (or required time frame) is comprehensive, provides opportunities for skill-building, and gets at parents needs beyond child-focused content, and
  • program administrators need to “beef up” their content and design techniques, providing text, videos, or other materials that are not too simplistic and opportunities for parents to interact.  If parents are engaged with the material, they will be more likely to continue exploring through the site and or enticed to come back for more.

Interesting Websites and Blogs


Not sure what to make of these sources, but there may be some useful material at these sites:

eHarmony Labs

The Thoughtful Parent

Child Therapy Chicago

The Intelligent Divorce

Coparenting After Divorce at Psychology Today

RAND studies on Marriage and Divorce

European Network for the Sociological and Demographic Study of Divorce 

Conceptualizing and Measuring “Healthy Marriage”
For Empirical Research and Evaluation Studies   Child Trends