Views of young people cast doubt on shared parenting presumptions

Children|News|November 22nd 2012

The authors of a new study into the views of young people whose parents divorced say the government should not proceed with plans to introduce a presumption in favour of shared parenting.

The study, called Taking a longer view of contact: The perspectives of young adults who experienced parental separation in their youth, examines the views and memories of young adults whose parents divorced when they were children. In what is thought to be the first major study of its kind, the researchers interviewed almost 400 people between the ages of 18 and 35 about the ways in which their parents had handled contact after their divorces.

They found that interviewees rarely blamed the parent they lived with for contact with the other parent not happening or being interrupted. The majority said any disruptions had been down to the other parent, the ‘non-resident’ one, or had even been their own decision. ‘Resident’ parents  – the ones the children lived with – were much more likely to encourage contact with the other parent than to try and prevent it.

The interviewees also rated quality over quantity when it came to contact with the non-resident parent, and also believed that a good pre-existing relationship with the parent who had left the family home made a big difference to successful contact after divorce:

“One of the most striking findings of the study was the importance of the pre-separation relationship between the child and the parent who subsequently became non-resident. Where relationships had been very close contact was most likely to be both continuous and a positive experience for the child. The foundations of successful contact, then, are laid down pre-separation.”

A sense of commitment to the children from the children was also vital. To quote the report:

“…the extent to which the non-resident parent was considered to have made an effort to make contact an enjoyable, child-focused experience and whether they demonstrated their commitment to the child. Being subjected to adult pursuits or being ignored were taken as indications of their own lack of importance to the non-resident parent.”

Consultation is further message from the report. The children wanted to be consulted on contact arrangements and not be coerced into arrangements they did not like.

As a result, the researchers conclude that:

“Our research suggests… that the proposed legislation [in favour of shared parenting] should not proceed. Rather the courts should retain an unfettered discretion to determine whether or not the welfare of the particular child in question would be furthered by the involvement being sought by the litigant parent. This would accord most closely with one of the major themes in this research, the importance of tailoring contact arrangements to the needs and wishes of the individual child in their particular circumstances. In contrast, the government’s preferred option would commit the courts to adopting a simplistic, broad-brush approach to the subtle complexity of child-parent relationships.”

The study was a joint project between the universities of Sussex and Oxford and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

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  1. Michael says:

    Um. This is the same as the oxford university research, with the same people funding it, which had a clear political agenda for trying to introduce “research” in order to counteract shared parenting presumptions. Please google “nuffield foundation sexism” and you will find that the same pattern exists with previous biased research conducted.
    There have been huge gaping holes in the way this research was conducted and even the summary has already been criticised. Its all the usual suspects as before involved, all of them women, all of them feminists and it is a regurgitation of biased techniques being used to ascertain a predetermined outcome. For instance ALL of the respondents were in situations where contact happened, in effect where parental alienation attempts failed – so the study would NOT take into account those NRP and child relationships that failed DUE to parental alienation. Also a minute amount of the respondents were in situations where they went to court for these custody arrangements.
    Advertising this sort of rubbish as representative is highly misleading. The presumptions are nothing to do with the proportion of time that a child spends with each parent! They cant even get this right!
    I find that it is absurd to treat this kind of research with any degree of seriousness or relevance to a shared presumption of parenting. Please read the summary properly before sensationalising this rubbish. It is if anything a conclusion of how bad the previous system of RP and NRP is and how it should be changed to one where the child sees both parents as equal in its care. More responsible reporting please. Children’s lives are at stake.

  2. Observer says:

    “The majority said any disruptions had been down to the other parent, the ‘non-resident’ one, or had even been their own decision.”
    What does one expect, come on? That’s why it is so important to tackle the epidemic of parental alienation that allows the controlling and abusive parent to misrepresent the other.
    You’d think that the people who do this research and then report on it so uncritically were born yesterday. Wow.

  3. Observer says:

    In my opinion, the parent who puts the children in the middle to begin with has at least 2 of 3 strikes against them already, and the 3rd strike should mean a transference of residency.

  4. JamesB says:

    I have been on both sides of this as a child and an adult. On balance, the adversarial approach isn’t right. Every other weekend and NRPs portrayed as bad is also way off the mark and the courts and professionals have a very long way as they are making me feel quite ill with the continued nrp = scum agenda. If they think that and the law will continue being like that as it is, perhaps they might, they should let us off our child maintenance obligations.
    There is something particularly disgusting about paying to be insulted.
    Paying child maintenance to be called a bad father is wrong. You cant have it both ways. If you call us bad, then dont take our money. If you call us good, then let us see our children ffs. Who’s kids are they anyway? Not the F’ing Governments!

  5. JamesB says:

    It is wrong for the Government to expect us to pay child maintenance while being insulted for the dubious pleasure of having our children stolen from us in the name of the discredited philosophy that was called feminism. If we are going to get all academic and namby pamby and fancy sounding about it.

  6. JamesB says:

    re : In contrast, the government’s preferred option would commit the courts to adopting a simplistic, broad-brush approach to the subtle complexity of child-parent relationships.”
    That is what we have currently. If you can’t agree the nrp get’s stuffed with every other weekend at the final hearing, which is rubbish really.

  7. JamesB says:

    Not happy with this publication. Could have been very much better giving good examples where shared parenting works and where it doesn’t work. I know some examples where it works and where the children are very happy. Certainly a lot happier than if the parents had gone to court and shafted the nrp with every other weekend, like what I got.

  8. JamesB says:

    The CSA believe in broad brush approaches also, yet the piece here doesn’t complain about them.

  9. JamesB says:

    Shared parenting suggestion isn’t broad brush anyway, is a good, presumed starting point highlighting that both parents are valued. Very simple, poor publication.

  10. Yuri Joakimidis says:

    There is no research suggesting that children for the most part like or thrive on the one size fits all fall-back ‘80/20’ arrangement that remains so commonplace.
    Studies in Australia, New Zealand and the US that asked adolescents and adults their views on living arrangements after parents’ divorce all found that the majority endorsed equal time with both of their parents. (Cashmore & Parkinson 2003, Pryor, 2001; Luepnitz 1982)
    A North American study of 344 men and 485 women who were undergraduates and whose parents had divorced ten years earlier found that 70% chose equal amounts of time with each parent as the ideal scenario in response to a vignette.
    The authors pointed out that this was not an idealistic position, as 93% of those who had experienced equal time with parents endorsed the living arrangement. (Fabricius & Hall 2000).
    It is important to note that these young people are the parents of the future many of whom will marry and separate. If attitudes are any indication of behaviour then they will not be adhering to the present common pattern of every other weekend and half the holidays with fathers.
    Policy makers would be ill-advised to ignore this steadfast message from young people that they actually and ideally prefer substantive amounts of time with both parents.

  11. Observer says:

    Good post Yuri.
    Some honesty amidst all the trash is like a glimmer of light.
    Whoever commissioned this research must be terribly embarrassed at what it yielded.

  12. Paul Gilson says:

    I tried to post on another family law blog but the owner blocked my post which clearly wasn’t to her liking. What i think is this, and I do believe in its relevance.
    What we have here with this latest piece of Nuffield/Sussex Uni research is pseudoscience – the substantiation of personal prejudice through numbers. Liz Trinder and her fellow travellers do not participate at any level in family law research projects that risk reaching conclusions which pose offence to their deeply-held anti-nuclear family beliefs. Theirs is the parallel world where men perpetrate but mothers never alienate. This latest piece is but another managed, massaged, manipulation which happens to neatly fit the collective ideology of those responsible for its commissioning and development.
    To challenge an important piece of proposed parliamentary legislation (rather than let senior judges invent family policy on the hoof) requires more than a crude research study based on personal narratives of children extracted from short, 14 minute telephone interviews, nearly all of whom can be safely assumed never to have been the subject of a contested dispute anyway.
    Had the thought never struck these ‘researchers’ that the research sample ought properly to have been derived exclusively from children whose parents fought custody in court, where the prevalence of adverse psychological, mental and other issues is known to be considerable, particularly in mothers who obstruct and deny contact for no good reason? Normal, reasonable people don’t trigger contact disputes without good cause. And neither do you see alienation in their children. Here it is presumably a rare condition. But family law does not deal with these situations, by definition. Family law deals with situations where child alienation is an all too common occurrence these days. The legislative debate is directed at resolving issues that derive from this family dysfunction. And this research fails lamentably to address that. It is the sinister construct of people who seek to deny alienation and keep separated fathers at bay.
    Professor Parkinson has publically expressed regret that feminist academics hurt the interests of children and that it is time for them to disengage and back off. I can’t disagree with that. People should complain to their MP’s and bother the Nuffield Foundation too.

  13. Observer says:

    In spite of their general incompetence and sexism, some judges have come forward and made statements to the effect of badmouthing one parent to the child is tantamount to telling the child that half of them is bad.
    It follows that if parenting is not shared, then the child is pretty much led to believe that this is because they are “bad”.
    It never ceases to amaze me that we have so much rhetoric around child safety and welfare, yet in every case where children are being hurt by the wickedness of the resident parent, safety and welfare are completely ignored by the same judges who like to preach at parents.
    Going into court should be simple. The judge simply needs to ask which of the parents does not support shared parenting. The one who answers becomes the contact parent.
    If only the public knew how easy it could be, instead of being fed so many lies by organizations like Nuffield Foundation, Gingerbread, the Law Society, etc. – the list of organizations opposing shared parenting suddenly seems to be growing by the day now.

  14. Paul Gilson says:

    Well I challenged a member of the bar association on the Pink Tape website about the conflict of interest problem barristers can have when pushing a near to, or non-existent case on behalf of an obstructive mother. I ended up with my posts blocked.
    That’s basically a reflection of how the bar approaches family law. They don’t like their cosy niche challenged. Typically in such cases an ordinary, deserving dad might well end up in a contact centre for a few months while he proves himself ‘safe’. That’s an iniquity both to him and his child. To my mind the bar association must properly resolve their conflict of interest problem. Family law is like no other as the court’s first responsibility is to the child, rather than the parties. And I believe that legal professionals must work to that maxim too. They should inform the court of any suspicion that the mother is basically someone who denies contact without adequate cause. But of course they won’t do this when money and fees are involved. The EWCA reported a case recently where the parties spent close to £250,000, roughly half of that publically funded. That’s a disgrace. No parent ever deserves that much legal aid in a disputed contact case.
    With regard to this pseudoscience study, there are many other more compelling pieces of research which support the government’s legislative proposal to support more father involvement in childcare. There are also other overarching reasons why the proposal should be brought into law. Professor Parkinson spells out the case perfectly adequately and In suggest people read the speech he gave over here earlier this year. It’s a must read for anyone interested in UK family law.

  15. Observer says:

    Well, I think it sad that one should need to pull a dusty professor out of the closet to support such a common-sense idea as shared parenting.
    It’s an indication of how powerful and far-reaching are the tentacles of certain organizations that exist to spread fear and dishonesty. One almost wonders if they’ve been taking lessons from the Americans?

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