New Articles in the Journal of Child Custody, March 2014


Here are four articles in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Child Custody.  

Di Stefano, G., & Cyr, F. (2014). Child adjustment following parental separation: The role of maternal well-being, parenting quality, and household income. Journal of Child Custody, 11(1), 5-24.  doi:10.1080/15379418.2014.892802

Froyd, D. “., & Cain, D. J. (2014). Toward a humanistic approach to child custody mediation: A delicate balance. Journal of Child Custody, 11(1), 41-60. doi:10.1080/15379418.2014.892803

Garber, B. D. (2014). The chameleon child: Children as actors in the high conflict divorce drama. Journal of Child Custody, 11(1), 25-40. doi:10.1080/15379418.2014.892805

Lennings, C. J., Brummert Lennings, H. I., Bussey, K., & Taylor, A. J. (2014). Family risk assessment: Characteristics of families with child abuse notifications in australia. Journal of Child Custody, 11(1), 61-75. doi:10.1080/15379418.2014.892804

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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

Law and Scientific Evidence about Shared Parenting


A new report to be published in Family Court Review explores the state of the law and the scientific evidence regarding shared parenting.  This is an important review of the scientific and legal landscape.  See Closing the Gap: Research, Policy, Practice and Shared Parenting AFCC Think Tank Final Report  by MK Pruett, JH DiFonzo

Qualitative Insights into Divorce’s Impact on Children


November 8, 2013 Time:   2:30 pm – 4:00 pm  Bowie A

Maintaining Intergenerational Stepkin Relations in Divorced Families

Presented by: Caroline Sanner, Ashton Chapman, Luke Russell, Lawrence Ganong, Marilyn Coleman

Remarriages have higher divorce rates than first marriages, suggesting that children may experience multiple stepfamily transitions. Little is known about how families navigate ex-stepkin relationships resulting from these transitions. Given the demonstrated importance of stepgrandparent/stepgrandchild relationships in remarried families, our grounded theory study seeks to explore relationship maintenance strategies with ex-stepgrandparents employed by stepgrandchildren following parental divorce. 13 former stepchildren were interviewed and common themes were identified. Preliminary results indicate that stepgrandchild’s age, steprelationship length, relationship quality, and presence of biological grandparents impacted young adults’ decisions to maintain contact with ex-stepgrandparents post-divorce.

Negotiating Nonresidential Parent-child Relationships in Emerging Adulthood

Presented by: Richard Feistman, Marilyn Coleman, Lawrence Ganong

The well-being of emerging adults’ (ages 18 to 25) often relies on the emotional and financial support provided by their parents. However, relationships between emerging adults and their divorced parents, particularly their nonresidential parents, are fragile. Our grounded theory study will result in a model of the processes involved in forming or maintaining relationships between emerging adults and their nonresidential parents. Preliminary results from 32 participants indicate that emerging adults’ often control levels of contact. Several factors, such as attitudes on family ties, influence the degree of contact emerging adults have with nonresidential parents.

Custody Arrangement Decisions Among Divorcing or Separating Parents

Presented by: Jaimee Hartenstein, Melinda Stafford Markham

A secondary qualitative data analysis of a database of interviews from a previous grounded theory study of 30 participants was conducted. This study investigated how divorced or separated parents determine the custody arrangements for their children. Four categories emerged from the data including no court involvement, agreement decided by couple to be included in divorce decree, court ordered arrangement, and custody changed over time. The findings suggest that there is a great deal of variation in the custody arrangements among divorcing or separating parents. There is not a universal arrangement that will be suitable for all divorcing or separating parents.

Custody Arrangement Decisions among Divorcing or Separating Parents

Young Adults’ Socialization Narratives After Parental Divorce

Presented by: Mick Cunningham, Kelly Skillingstead

Despite the enormous body of evidence investigating parental influences on children, we know remarkably little about how people think and talk about socialization processes. The current study focuses on young adults’ narrative explanations of how they perceive they were affected by their parents’ divorce. Results show that many young adults 1) believe that their parents have modeled behavior that the offspring hope to avoid in their own marriages, 2) lament the absence of effective relationship modeling, and 3) suggest they will themselves act in ways that are opposite of the behaviors they observed in their parents’ marriages.

Downloads: Young Adults’ Socialization Narratives after Parental Divorce

 

Should both parents in high conflict divorces have parenting time?


High-conflict parents pose many challenges for the courts?  There has been much disagreement about whether both parents should continue contact or whether to award custody to one parent and try to reduce the conflict.  Embedded is this dispute is the issue of parent alienation.  Again a troublesome and controversial topic.

New research by Irwin Sandler and colleagues at Arizona State University provides some new insights into the factors that can guide decisions about parenting plans for high-conflict families.  In general, there is much evidence to indicate that high quality parenting by both mothers and fathers reduces the likelihood that children in divorcing families will have psychological problems.  The question posed by Sandler and colleagues is whether factors such as the amount of contact with parents, the amount of conflict and the parenting behavior of the other parent would change these typical findings.  For example, for the child continuing to be engaged with both parents may reduce emotional and behavior problems, but if continued conflict also results in greater exposure to their parents’ conflict, then the costs may outweigh the benefits.  Additionally, the scientists were interested in the how the amount of time each parent spent with the child and the impact this has on the child’s well-being.

Split: A Documentary on Children’s Reaction to Divorce


Due to be released soon, Split, an exploration of children’s journeys through divorce looks like an insightful examination of children’s feelings about divorce.  It is so important to hear children’s voices in understanding divorce.  Vicki Larson published an excellent interview with the producer of the movie, Emily Bruno on Huffington Post.

Donations to support the movie are begin accepted until Dec 17, 2012.

National Center for State Courts


This website catalogs resources for professionals who conduct divorce education, mediation, and other types of work with divorcing families.