Category Archives: Robert Whiston

Custody in Crisis

by Robert Whiston  FRSA,  Aug 16th 2008.

 

Introduction:

A once silent judiciary appears to be finding its voice – if only sporadically. At last, judges are speaking out against the mismanagement of the law and the Family Division in particular.

But is it too little, too late ? Are we already heading towards a meltdown ?

A once confident commissariat of politically motivated opinion-shapers now see their beloved solutions slowly turning to dust. Institutions, once devised to meet what was thought to be needs of the public, now oppress the very people intended to benefit.

Having read Stephen Gilmore’s 2001 paper “A Critical Perspective on the Welfare Principle”, published in ‘Family Law’, I have no hesitation in recommending his paper to others with an interest in child custody. [1] 

The question today is whether ‘welfarism’ that gave rise to the concept of the child’s best interests (CBI) is over and dead. And if it is finished, as unworkable what system of merit, is there anything to replace it ?

It is a dilemma facing all Europeans nations in one form of another.

This paper discusses the problems of ‘indeterminacy’ caused by the CBI approach and the alternatives proposed by some academics.

1. Looking at the Science of Child Welfare

Stephen Gilmore begins his article by outlining the extensive powers of the Court of Appeal to intervene in circumstances where normally it is parents who decide matters. He points to the courts readiness to interfere in cases where normally parental is permission is sought and is either given or denied by them, and how the same court can choose to simply ignore those wishes.

An example that comes quickly to mind is the court’s decision to permit the lethal separation of conjoined twins.

This power he contrasts with a 1997 example of where the Court of Appeal instead of overriding parental wishes surrender to a mother’s opposition who does not want to allow a lifesaving medical operation to be performed on her child. [2]

As millions of fathers know to their cost, the law is central to their aspiration to care for their children. However, regardless of how pivotal the law is to such ambitions, it is also belligerent, not to say needlessly obstructive and impedes at seemingly every turn. It is the law and the same court system that is used by others to thwart, deflect and deter fathers.

The law regulates the practice of a plethora of professions and a veritable army of salaried staff can be found within each profession.

The law is at the heart of, for example, social work, child protection, the power of local authorities, and is supposed to secure accountability. Experience and regular headlines tell us this is a fiction. Child abuse and homicides go unabated whenever the public sector becomes involved.[3] Experience also tells us it is this group that thwart, deflect and deter.

The apparently seamless professional façade is also a fiction. Behind the static screens is a heated debate and an anxiety over the future usefulness of their work and if fathers been unfairly excluded.

Stephen Gilmore’s paper into the ‘welfare principle’ gives the reader an insight rarely seen by fathers of what is happening behind the scenes and the turmoil that a reappraisal of the principle is causing.

Questions are being posed from within as to what, where and how lies their future direction.

Social workers who in the past may have paid only lip service to the notion that social work itself is subject to ‘constant development and change’ are waking up to a the very real changes wrought by fathers groups.

The severity of change is no longer something that can be gilded over.

Wrestling with major changes has prompted a flurry of articles (‘major texts’) whose intention is described as aiming “to enrich thinking and debate about this crucial and challenging area, thereby encouraging reflective practice.” In plain English this hints that a revolution may be underway.

Stephen Gilmore’s paper draws attention to this shift. The authors he cites are mentioned in this article with a little more detail than is permitted on his truncated web-article.

He recognises that the “key areas [are] law and practice” and that to date the view of the practitioners have been at the expense of the user. This is a small but vital change of emphasis. Gilmore makes the distinction that “law guides decision-making in social work” and one can infer (in the fathers’ movement) that to effect change the law must either be forced to alter or to accept change.

Gilmore brings to our attention a variety of remarks and conclusions made by a range of social scientists and researchers, some known to us, for example, Mavis Maclean, John Eekelaar, Martha Fineman, and some more obscure, Anne Opie, Jon Elster, J.Herring, Helen Reece. And it is the last name, Helen Reece, lecturer at UCL (University College London) who gives us the key note theme that will be repeated in this article. In “Subverting the Stigmatization Argument” she states that: [4]

The paramountcy principle originates as a covert method of putting mothers on an equal footing with fathers in custody disputes, through the subordination of both fathers and mothers interests in the interests of the child. This was the more politically acceptable than giving mothers full parental authority directly which happened only in 1989.

This is certainly how it feels and explains much but is it simply an accident of fate ?  If her history of the concept is factual correct then it would mean that in a post-1989 era where it is politically acceptable to give mothers an ‘interests’ in the children’s future then there is no longer any valid reason to subordinate fathers rights and interests, in fact, to do so would be sex discrimination.[5]

In the past academics have deferred to the science of child welfare and what the law has to say about it and the child. Their reverence has been embarrassing – comparable to the awe of scared cows.

Fathers groups have been in the vanguard of challenging that deference; questioning whether it really can be called a science.

Gilmore’s paper concedes, and probably most fathers would concur that Child Welfare Science is “not universally admired.” Is the sacred cow status screening the real function which is that such a paradigm transforms fathers into milch cows, i.e. a source of easily gained income ? 

Martha Fineman and Anne Opie, writing in 1987, argue that social science conclusions are ‘thoroughly embedded in the culture and professional practices which produce them’. No father would disagree with the adjective ‘embedded’.

Right: an aging Martha Fineman, feminist author

Every symptom that militates against fathers and their right to custody equality all appear to be very systemic in nature, immutable and built into the fabric of the agencies with whom he has to deal.

Later, in 1989, Fineman writes of what could be described as the insipient ‘disconnect’ between on the one hand the judiciary and the caring professions and on the other those being given the help and assistance both offer, i.e. the public.

Right: Anne Opie (New Zealand)

What has been lost under the current practice of deferral to the helping professions are legal procedural values such as due process and public decision-making, in addition to the undervaluing of nurturing and caring. (Fineman, 1989). [6]

It has taken almost 20 years for politicians to wake up to the disconnect of the broken society fathers groups have been highlighting since the late 1990s. They have seen the importance of a nurturing and caring society which only now is finding a resonance in the societal junk yard left by the Tony Blair years. Conservative Party policy now has David Cameron setting himself the task of “mending a broken society'”.  [7] Labour has been forced to follow suit.

Trying to understand why men’s progress towards equality of treatment is so perennially rebuffed has always been difficult to explain but it is becoming increasingly mystifying given the societal changes and exhortations by government and ‘opinion shapers’, that seek to re-assure men that they are as equal in parenting matters as mothers. Gilmore’s paper gives us some of those answers.

As an industry, there is a realisation in ‘academia’ that the law and the present practice of the ‘professionals’, “does not, and cannot, provide an answer to the complex human questions that lie at the heart of the social work task.” [8]

2. Quantifying the Resistance

Every ‘policy for change’ announced by government is systematically cancelled out in private circles by the resistance to change (ROC) and opposition to any re-ordering of the status quo. This results in progress that is not just minimal but can slip into reverse.

No where is this more acutely apparent than in the quasi-methodical way custody awards continue to be decided.

The new dawn for the judiciary that the Children Act 1989 should have signalled served only to entrench old court patterns of behaviour. The judiciary instinctively oppose what they see as ‘radical’ change and prefer to muddle along in their comfort zone.

Our goal should be how to tackle and overcome these problems, not simply to bemoan the inadequacies of the regime.

Those in the Social Sciences are not best equipped to analyse themselves or where they and their profession now stand. However, those that have been in business are au fait with the need and the method to get a grip on transition. The Social Sciences and the academic scaffolding that surrounds them are unable to make a cold, detach analysis, and then take the necessary steps. They have reputations and future funding to protect.

If those in the social sciences are unable to perform this self-analysis to allow them to move with the times then this represents a vulnerability which fathers groups can exploit.

Fathers groups need to see what they need to achieve; where to achieve it; and how far they have succeeded. To that end the following table should prove useful.

Rick Bremner a management consultant, neatly sums up the situation when he writes;

‘Resistance isn’t actually resistance to change — its resistance to the loss of the old status quo’. [9]

Some of his insights and assessments are directly applicable to fathers to grapple with the imperfections of the judicial system.

Using the Table below, fathers face, for instance, what he defines as the ‘old status quo’. Into this comfort zone then comes father’s activists – the foreign element – which the old status quo must either annihilate or absorb.

            Table 1. It would not be too optimist to suggest that fathers rights groups are somewhere in the ‘Chaos’ and the ‘New status quo’ categories. Public leaders and institutions presently exhibit Chaos characteristics but there are hints that elements from both categories are emerging in that new patterns and relationships are transforming ideas.

A theme that is most noticeable throughout Gilmore’s paper – and it arises everywhere in the papers of other researchers he cites, e.g. see M. Fineman’s quote above – is a slavishly sycophantic deference to an abstract ideal of the law. Without any reason being given the law is held in obsequious awe when at other times the same commentators and especially the press would agree the law is an ass in reaching some of its decisions.

“Academia” for want of a handier or better title, is in flux. While the theme of loyalty to the law remains intact it is wearing thin. There is a recognition that change is afoot and has to be managed.

A principle obstacle to change and to shared parenting has been unfavourable papers and surveys of the consequences of such a model. The one factor these papers have in common is that they focus on ‘high risk’ families which by definition are aberrant – but this is not made clear enough to the casual reader or journalist.

A fascinating article appeared in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry which concluded that the associations between the quality of a child’s relationships with its non-resident father (NRF) needs to be considered particularly within the framework of the larger family system. The inference is that it is not duly considered presently. Rather than excluding fathers as many commentators opposed to shared parenting have advocated (on the basis that all men are inherently violent), the article found  child–father relationships are particularly important for children from ‘high risk’ families. [10]

Over a 2 year period these NRF-child associations were stronger and more stable for children from single-parent families than for those with stepfathers.

In other words, the most vulnerable children benefited significantly from pro-active biological father involvement.

It would be impolite and unseemly in such circles for the article to suggest that if the family is ‘high risk’ and yet fathers’ participation is beneficial what parent is causing the ‘high risk’?

The above 2004 article contrasts sharply with the fashion and prevailing culture of 10 years earlier when Valarie King wrote her University of Pennsylvania, dissertation, “Consequences of Outside Father Involvement for Children’s Well-Being”, 1993. It was almost mandatory in the 1990s to see fathers as ‘outside’ the family and his contribution to it as inconsequential.

3. Key Moments

After dealing with some of the basic historical aspects of custody and guardianship (many of which are already cited on this blog in the article entitled Killing Custody), he ventures to pinpoint the key moment when welfare of the child became a principle (see https://motoristmatters.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/12/).

He sees the Court of Chancery as introducing the interests of the child as a justification for interfering with the father’s rights as the child’s natural guardian and cites De Manneville v. De Manneville (1804) and Wellesley v. Duke of Beaufort (1827). [11]

This move is reinforced by the Guardianship of Infants Act 1886 where the child’s welfare was stated to be a consideration for the court in custody disputes. Shortly thereafter, in the early 1890s, Gilmore states that the welfare of the child had become the ‘dominant matter’. [12]

However, it was the Guardianship of Infants Act of 1925 that first categorically provided that the child’s welfare was to be the ‘first and paramount’ consideration.

A thin divide between two distinct eras, it is argued by some, emerged simply by subtle changes in wording. In its earlier incarnation the welfare principle was said to be narrower in its scope and adjudged by courts to be ‘a primary consideration’ – one among other primary contenders. This was later superseded with the adoption of the stronger phrase in the 1925 Act that a child’s welfare was ‘the paramount consideration’. [13] Other considerations which once vied for consideration were, after the 1989 Act, knocked out of the ring and the ‘child best interest’ (CBI) and paramountcy monopolised all future proceedings.

The prescient motto to adopt must be that “Legal changes won’t bring reforms”, that is to say, not of themselves.

In “Legal Change and Child Custody Awards” Jessica Pearson, University of Denver, 1982 examined that happened to the pattern of custody award in Colorado between 1966 and 1976. [14] This was a period of time prior to the adoption of a “sex neutral” statute that stressed the bestinterest of the child (CBI) in the judicial award of child custody. It also covers the time period after those legal changes.

Comparing the two eras Jessica Pearson found that the legislative changes had only a marginal affect on how judges awarded custody. Mothers continued to routinelyacquire the custody rights of the children following divorceunless shown to be unfit to parent.

But significantly in the final year, 1976, an increasein the proportion of shared, joint, and split custody arrangements was noticed. This was taken as evidence that the new legal standards were inspiringmen to play a more aggressive role in contested child custodycases.

It is significant because a similar trend was occurring in Britain – until the advent of the ‘train wreck’ known as the Children Act 1989.

There has been a recognition of late that the perceptions and not just the actual ‘welfare’ principle for children, changes over time. Gilmore gives an illustration in Re M (Child’s Upbringing) [1996] 2 FLR 441. The facts were very similar to those of J v. C when the House of Lords in 1970 held that the welfare principle was not confined to disputes between parents, but applied equally between parents and third parties. The court’s power to intervene meant that the court decreed that it was in a Spanish boy’s best interests to remain in England with his long-term English foster parents.

In Re M the question for the Court of Appeal was whether a Zulu boy should be returned to his parents in South Africa. Unlike the Spanish boy, the Zulu boy’s best interests were seen as most likely to be achieved if he did not remain in England. He was returned to Africa while the Spanish boy stayed in the UK.

The welfare principle, Gilmore believes, was strengthened in the Children Act 1989 when it removed the word ‘first’ – as in ‘first consideration’. Fathers groups would interpret this implied exclusivity as a distortion of intent. The longstanding criteria used by the court prior to 1989 was that in determining custody the ‘first consideration’ (implying one consideration among many) must be the best option for the child’s future. For example, a father’s larger home or his plan to send his child to a fee-paying school and later to university would be more attractive to the court than a mother’s intention to utilise the local comprehensive school. The other test phrase used by the court prior to 1989 was that the child’s interests should be ‘a primary’ consideration’ (again, implying one among others). The 1989 Act made all other considerations bar the mother’s, redundant.

4. Why Have a Welfare Tenet ?

This is increasingly the question posed in numerous journals and learned papers – and it is good news for divorced fathers everywhere – and for the interests of their immediate family, i.e. grandparents, uncles, aunts etc.

The ‘welfare principle’ has been allowed to become a totem; it is a scared cow that carries no warranty as to childhood outcomes it creates or appropriateness to a child needs – a development also now being acknowledged by those in the social science field.

Parallel to this development, Bowlby’s ‘attachment theory’ has attracted substantial support from academia, post 1950. [15] Bowlby argues for a bias in child-parent attachment that favours the mother.

Left: John Bowlby

Prof Rutter and others say there is a lack of hard supporting evidence for this view. [16]

The ‘welfare principle’ which developed in case law and was designed to protect the child’s interest, has emerged in statute as a by-product of a struggle to equalise the position of mothers and fathers in relation to the guardianship of their children (in law, fathers and unmarried women always had de facto guardianship rights). [17] Confusion only set in when married and divorced women sought the same rights as unwed mothers (see also ‘Anna Freud Parts 1 -3′  by R Whiston).

The scope and meaning of the ‘welfare principle’ was enlarged by judicial interpretation. Phillip Alston is among many who describe how universal the concept has become:

“. . . .despite its very limited jurisprudential origins, the principle has come to be known in one form or another to many national legal systems and has important analogues in diverse cultural, religious and other traditions.” (P. Alston, 1994). [18]

In defence of this haphazard approach it is said that 1). every child is different and 2). each child and case deserves individual consideration and 3). every case has to be judged on its own unique merits.

Those claims, however, are not only misleading and mischievous but disingenuous.  These are not reason but frail excuses to hide contradictory rulings. If each child and case deserves as much individual consideration as a criminal case then why don’t 95% of murder cases attract the same sentence ?  The phoney claim of uniqueness shields a decomposing and disintegrating regime rapidly falling into public disrepute.

We should re-examine afresh what we actually mean, or think we mean, by “every child is different”. If every child were different we would not be able legislate for children as a category because they would all be so different. The United Nations’ could not have a Charter for children’s rights because all the worlds’ children would all so very different.

This clearly cannot the case. For UNICEF to do its work it must assume all children are the same, require the same basic requirements of water, food, warmth and shelter to survive and an additional echelon of needs in order to thrive, e.g. clean drinking water, warm and regular food, effective shelter, personal security, family security, education and training etc. All children share these additional echelons.  Arguably, every child is not different but the same.

Therefore, in custody disputes either all children or no children want to see both parents and equally either all children or no children want sole mother custody thrust upon them.

This criticism of the welfare principle chimes with the view found in Gilmore’s paper that adults in their efforts to “listen to children” can all too readily turn the welfare principle into something that is ‘done’ to children rather than for them’.

It follows from the above argument that each child and each case, while deserving adequate and proper attention does not automatically require individual consideration. There is a commonality among the desires, wants and requisites of a child. These must be provided and chief among them is to know and be loved by both of its parents. This is made almost impossible with the current regime of sole mother custody that pervades 95% of post divorce child awards.

It is morally indefensible for one child – or even just 5% – to have a privileged or satisfactory outcome and every other child to have the very opposite.

The European Court of Human Rights has fuelled the level of academic inquiry, particularly since Britain’s Human Rights Act 1998 became active in 2000, and the obvious conflict that has arisen whenever the ECHR has struck down appeal court rulings of the various nation states.[19]  Many EU nations have been found guilty and fined over their conduct for not giving fathers reasonable custody or access. Unaccountably, in many instances this has not led to changes in legislation.

There is an inherent three way clash between 1). the established welfare principles versus 2). the new EU version of family law (which permits the right to family life and of access to one’s children etc), versus 3). parental rights when custody rules are being defined by a conglomerate power bloc, i.e. the EU (and not courts or parents) that nominally does not allow discrimination on grounds of one’s sex.

What is slowly being realised, but is not yet accepted by courts, is that in their attempts to enforce and ensure child protection at every turn, we are inadvertently using the immense power of the state to abuse children by compromising their ‘rights’. No where is this more keenly felt than at the point of interdiction by agencies such as Social Services, probation service, child protection services, local council welfare bodies and CAFCASS.

Local councils have attracted unfavourable headlines in the past 12 months by overstepping the mark, being pre-emptive and simply getting it wrong in case after case. [20]

It must surely be a calamity by any measure that hundreds of children have been taken “into care” on the basis of disputed medical evidence of abuse.  Parents so affected could, said Margaret Hodge MP, the Children’s Minister be reunited with their families. However, children that have been forcibly adopted by the state after being ‘taken into care’ will not benefit from the same government review of procedures ordered in Feb 2004. [21]

Right: Margaret Hodge MP

The Children Act 1989 directs that courts shall, in particular, pay due regard to “any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering” (Part 1, clause 2, (3) [e]). Wrenching children from their parents and then separating the brothers and sister among various adopting families cannot be anything but harmful and suffering.

What an absurd situation for the courts to fall into !

Below are some of the  caveats and proviso’s a court must adopt before making a decision about adoption and Social Services demand for a care order:-.

(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (in the light of his age etc)

(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs

(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances

(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering

All the above can be negated and of no consequence by Social Services using sub-section ‘f’ to inform the court that the children’s parents may not, in their opinion, be “capable”

(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;

The range and scope of the powers available to the family court under sub-section ‘g’ the 1989 Act are practically limitless which makes all the child protection clauses and aspirations appear a parody of justice, a travesty and  incongruous.

Only the state, it would appear, can kidnap with impunity.

The reason why adoption proceedings appear to be so fast with the minimum of disagreement between social services and the court could be further wording in the CA 1989, Part 1 clause 2 which states:

 “In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.”

Hundreds of children taken into care on the basis of disputed medical evidence of abuse could be reunited with their families under a government review ordered yesterday. Margaret Hodge MP, the Children’s Minister, gave councils four weeks to review their current cases and 12 weeks to reassess all previous care orders that involved “serious disagreement” between medical experts.

Mrs Hodge said the Government was aware of the prospect of substantial compensation claims from parents whose children were later adopted after being taken away from them. Parents would be eligible for legal aid for such claims under normal rules.

But she gave little hope that such children would also be returned to their families, saying that to overthrow their cases could cause distress to “happily settled” adoptive families.

5. Future Reform

In our efforts to protect children we are using child protection legislation – which has grown out of the welfare principle – to abuse children by denying them their inalienable rights as specified above.

Gilmore sees the very real danger of the welfare principle actually impeding consideration of the issues from the child’s perspective.

There are signs that this view is becoming increasingly accepted in mainstream thinking as witnessed by the citations in Gilmore’s paper. He concludes, as many fathers did years ago, that the ‘child’s best interests’ is too subjective and too ‘value-laden’ with indeterminately elastic borders.

The ‘value-laden’ complication comes not from parents or society but from the (social) scientific and legal fraternity.

Using their skill base and predictive ability stemming from a college education and perhaps not yet being a parent they are not possessed of a clear real-time definition of “adequate parenting” and its ramifications, or the “best interests of the child” in real life terms.

Psychiatry and psychology are not exact sciences and yet their contributions to the debate are used in concrete terms by the courts who demand exactness in order to function.

The value-laden norms of the great and the good, while applicable to their own social grouping, are unstintingly inflicted on others social classes without a thought to their suitability. Britain’s intelligentsia should be fully engaged but is failing, by its silence, to test and question.

These are the threads to be found in articles by other commentators in other journals and are the ones that will be examined in this paper.

Though at first sight it may appear contradictory to envisage the welfare principle as impeding a consideration of children’s issues, the practicalities of defining what are the child’s best interests on any day, in any court, rests solely with the individual judge and how benign or bad-tempered he feels that day. This is something fathers groups have long tried to isolate and draw attention to.

In other words, for all the rhetoric about the ‘majesty of the law’, checklists etc, custody awards are totally subjective and devoid of any set of objective, repeatable criteria.

Fathers must continue to press for change – for the present metered scientific rationalization of all things natural is anything but scientific and doesn’t come close to being rational with a human face.

6. Sacrificing Parents

The welfare principle has taken on the mantle of a rhetorical and symbolic totem that is out of all proportion to its efficacy and probity. In the process one researcher, Altman (1997), believes it has prevented parents, judges and legislators from assessing custody sensibly.                                             

Left: Scott Altman , professor at USC Law  – Family Law, Property, Jurisprudence and Community Property.                      

The very strength of the welfare principle is also its fatal flaw. By focusing the court’s attention on the person who isn’t there to voice their sentiments, the court has to presume to know the child’s mind. In so doing the party with nominally the least control over courtroom events wields the greatest power and renders those who have to attend court with no control over their own futures. [22]

This could not happen when common law ruled custody and rarely happened when the child’s interests were one among several considerations. But today, parents have become hostages to fortune. Their fate is secondary. The happiness of adults is, in effect, sacrificed on the theoretical altar of CBI for some ethereal ideal that no one is sure exists.

The parallel considerations of parental and a child’s future welfare cannot be deftly detached and treated as two distinct entities, which is common practice today, for the future happiness of one hinges on the future happiness of the other.

Factors colouring the discussions are money, control, negotiation postures and a degree of sprightliness. Warren Farrell’s book “Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say” admirably makes the case.

“There are definitely financial reasons why some men seek child custody,” says USC Law School professor Scott Altman, who studied divorce-negotiation tactics by polling the members of the family law section of the California Bar. Altman found that over a one-year period more than 60% of divorce attorneys reported receiving threats of custody litigation from their opponents to extract more favorable child-support arrangements. Altman further found that attorneys who represented women exclusively or predominantly received such threats three times as often as their counterparts. (Lurking in the Shadow , 68 USC L. Rev. 493 (1995).

A lengthier commentary on these complicating issues and allegations can be found at http://warrenfarrell.info/the-dad-vocates.html.  

The more comprehensive the check-list is made to ensure optimum outcomes, vis-à-vis the welfare principle, the more complex everything becomes. The more complicated the ground rules the greater the chances of creating life-long misery. While the welfare principle is theoretically a sound one, it is the interpretation as presently executed that is killing people.

The resulting convolutions have led some to seriously suggest that tossing a coin would probably result in just as many ‘right’ custody decisions (Mnookin, 1975 & Elster, 1987).

Professional propriety, self-preservation, a thirst for funding and career reputation is some of the factors limiting radical inquiry.

Left: Prof. Robert Mnookin

As far back as 1975 Prof. Robert Mnookin (Harvard Law School), believed there was a danger that in custody matters the “parties felt denied a part in the process / forum and were unable to communicate their anger, their aspirations and level of exasperation.” [23] Successive changes have only worsened matters.

Left: John Elster

In 1992 Robert Mnookin and Eleanor Maccoby co-authored “Dividing the Child: Social and Legal Dilemmas of Custody.” It traces 1,000 families after divorce over a three year period.

It is exceptional in that it delves into numerous joint custody and sole father custody scenarios and the outcomes are examines in some detail.

Broadly speaking the book conclude that there are 3 main types of post divorce patterns in parental relationship when co-parenting (shared parenting) is in operation; 1. co-operative, 2. conflict and, 3. disengaged.

7. Making Choices

A child’s wishes and feelings are undoubtedly of great importance and should be weighed when deciding just where the child’s future welfare lies but there is, without doubt, also an interplay between children’s rights and their welfare and the consideration of others, i.e. the parents. [24]

It is acknowledged as a consideration but does not fully come to the fore in Gilmore’s paper or in the citations he uses. The difficulty lies not in giving a voice but in giving proper weight to the views of children. Here Gilmore is at one with fathers groups. Another difficulty is that in giving their views children – and many parents – may not what ‘outcomes’ are, or even what choices will lead to the most likely results, say, in 10 years time, from a choice they are now being asked to make today.

At present the child’s voice is conveyed via CAFCASS staff – a method that does not meet with wholesale confidence especially among fathers groups.

Professor Warshak, in an article published in the ‘Family and Conciliation Courts Review’ (October 2000) challenges “the idea that children have a biological need to develop selective attachment to just one person” (known as ‘monotrophy’).

Right: Professor Richard Warshak

Ben Greenstein’s book “The Fragile Male: The decline of a redundant species”, (1993) put forward similar ideas and, as noted above, Prof Rutter has questioned the selective attachment theory. 

Warshak’s challenge is crucial because the ‘maternal attachment theory’ has dominated court and intellectual thought process for several decades. [25] It has created a prejudicial mindset and coloured conversations at policy making level.

Men looking after children are not seen as equally competent as mothers but as aberrations – even when they are widowers. Solicitors advising fathers are not conversant with research. This has prevented fathers from winning more favourable awards when they have applied. Mother-only attachment theory has deterred literally hundreds of thousands of fathers from applying for sensible ‘shared parenting’ time and frustrated countless other. It is a destructive factor in human relations.

ONS data shows that single fathers disproportionately look after more teenagers than single mothers.

From ONS data it could be inferred that fathers are perhaps better (?) able to deal with the ‘difficult’ adolescent years (see Table 2, below). Albeit numerically small, fathers look after significantly higher than expected proportions of 5 to 10 years olds and 10 to 15 year olds.

Are fathers doing a better job judged on how many children stay within the household after the age of 16 ?  In SMH (single mother households) children aged 18 have completely disappeared from the radar. [26] 

Note:  In the 5-10 and the 10-15 age groups the proportion of children (at 70%), looked after are seemingly comparable between the sexes. What is not comparable; however, are the numbers with mothers’ 30% and 40% spanning many tens of thousands of children and the single fathers’ 20% and 50% spanning only a few hundred.

There is symmetry in the opposite ages that each sex looks after. Lone Fathers are well represented in the 16-19 age group but not mothers and vice versa in the 0-4 year old category (see 10 *).

What is also not comparable is that this table relates to lone fathers and divorce ‘single’ mothers. ONS data on single fathers seems invariably dominated by widowers rather than divorced single fathers which in itself speaks volumes about the level of discrimination in custody awards.

Professor Warshak’s article criticises ‘child therapists’. Some have poor skill levels while others have been drafted in from another speciality.

For the record, Warshak states definitively that the opinions of these experts are, in facts, simply views and prejudices and the options they recommend are not backed up by credible research:-

“Therapists who propose restricting children’s night-time contact to a parent (referred to as overnights) disagree on the age at which such restrictions should be lifted. In some cases, therapists designated as experts in court have testified that infants would suffer irreparable damage if separated from their mother for even one night. 

Other therapists routinely testify that children are not ready for overnight contact with their fathers until the age of five. None of these guidelines are grounded in systematic, methodologically valid research about the direct impact on children of overnight contact with divorced parents because such research does not yet exist. However, overnight restrictions are endorsed by many evaluators and expert witnesses.

This is exactly the point fathers representatives have been making to ministers and Whitehall for almost a decade. Fathers groups are puzzled why resistance to overnight stays is both virulent and endemic. The structuring of benefit payments to mothers and CSA rules perhaps answer both the motivation and the intensity with which overnight contact is resisted.

If all the ‘non-expert’ child therapists appear content to acquiesce or advocate for all children to have a future devoid of a father, then that speaks volumes about the political agenda they have adopted.

The belief expressed by Prof. Robert Mnookin, that there is a danger that the “parties felt denied a part in the [custody] process and were unable to communicate their anger, their aspirations and level of exasperation” are echoed on this side of he Atlantic. Lord Justice Dunn, comparing the pre-1969 era with that of the 1970s and 1980s, remarked upon the same phenomenon regarding how parties meshed with the new divorce regimen. In other words the system constructed to embrace the general public’s needs actually alienates them. [27]

The only thing to be said for this system [the pre-1969 divorce regime] was that it enabled the parties to unburden themselves of their rage and hostility against one another, instead of having their grievances bottled up inside them, causing them frustration and a feeling that they had been denied justice, as frequently happened when the law was reformed. To that extent it may have been a kind of therapy and few complained about the loss of a case. – ‘Sword and Wig’,  p 141.

Gilmore quotes a 1987 Valarie King (Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University) remark that although the welfare principle represents an important social and moral set of values for child protection it, “at one and the same time may be used to justify almost anything” – and that is the danger. Furthermore, as King points out: 

“.. the paradox that must be confronted is that the more clearly the law defines what factors should be considered and what objectives should be achieved… the more there will be to argue about and the less effective the welfare     principle will be as a non-enominational, class-free, apolitical, race- and gender-neutral principle to which everyone may pay lip-service.” -Valarie King, 1987.

While those realisations are afoot, changes in how fathers are perceived are also underway. The importance of and the role played by fathers in good ‘outcomes’ is being increasingly recognised. For instance while it has the usual caveats of a reluctant convert the American ‘National LongitudinalSurvey of Youth’ (NLSY), used a series of modelsto determine whether father visitation or the paymentof child support benefited a child’s wellbeing.

Left: Valarie King (Professor of Sociology, Demography, and Human Development & Family Studies

Valarie King and most of academia could not avoid recognising that the current rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing, triggered in the 1970s, made non-resident paternal parenting increasingly common.

Their attitude was that although recent public sentiment called for an increase of fatherly involvement in their children’s lives this was under the misguided assumption that such involvement had a positive benefits for children. Their counter to this common sense approach was that there was little evidence for the assumption and that previous studies of the effects of father involvement for children offer contradictory findings. [28]  This should not surprise anyone given the politics of the moment and the high stakes being played for. In fact it is better than it at first seems for the political fashion of the early 1990s did not auger well for interpreting paternal input in a positive light. The several measures of ‘usefulness’, used by the survey confirms this’; overlooked were factors like better at maths, staying on longer at school, lower chance of unemployment, down by 1½ times.

The National LongitudinalSurvey of Youth, and King’s later papers (circa 1994), concluded that the strongest evidence of a father’s participation was in the effect of child support in the domain of academic achievement (this is a benefit consistently found to the present day). Yet 10 years later researchers are finding this same source much more positive and useful in demonstrating how important fathers are to all children.

It might be supposed that the target audience of the survey could have been state officials looking for evidence to support a ratcheting up of CSA enforcements programmes. It might also be supposed that regardless of audience one could expects that conclusion given it as written in 1994 and long before a surge of less biased surveys and, of course, the headline grabbing protests by men for equality. [29]

8. An Ocean of Discretion

Proof that the issue of child custody has always and remains controversial in modern times is borne out by 1975 research undertaken by Prof Mnookin, [30] who concluded among other things that the welfare principle affords too wide a discretion to the judge.

Mnookin usefully points to what has been obvious to many of us, namely that whereas most legal decision-making is premised on claims of past events (and then ‘the law’ is applied to those events), decision-making in children’s cases is ‘person oriented’, forever revolving around a subjective evaluation of a person as a social being. Courts assess not so much past events but are asked to conjecture over future events without ever having any grounding in the subject.

Something that Mnookin in 1975 and Elster (born in Norway), in 1987 commented upon is the discretion dimension.  Parents are rendered clueless on how they should conduct themselves in court and what the judge/ court, on that day, is looking for. Not being given advance guidance means they miss any opportunity to address issues that are seen as important in the judge’s mind when coming to their decision.

The letter of the law demands, and jurisprudence insists, that “certainty” is at the heart of any viable legal system. ‘Certainty’ is not achieved by having a ‘person oriented’ regime and such a regime can be fairly accused of being “value laden” and “indeterminate”. [31] (See also ref A.V. Dicey, below).

The debate surrounding the competing factors in custody was still rumbling along twenty years later when Australian Stephen Parker (in 1994) wrote that ‘value judgments’ are clearly visible at every stages of CBI assessment.[32] 

The essence of the “rule of law” and the fundamental ideological principle of modern Western democracies is that the state governs and restricts the exercise of power and regulates the affairs of citizens by determinate and pre-determined rules.

Right: Stephen Parker

Not having such a system gives rise to “indeterminacy” – a facet in custody model deliberations that may be new to some readers.

Books and papers focusing on the topic of custody frequently, become lost in the distinction between public and private law. It appears from the way the citations are used that Parker’s main contribution relates to adoption law and books dealing with the Adoption Act 1976 – a law that until very recently had remained unchanged.

This tendency to confuse two separate arenas is also found in Gilmore’s paper – a certain degree of distinction essential to understanding is missing.

We therefore have the recurring situation where research and evidence is more accurately applicable to public law cases but is applied to private instances. Anna Freud books hypothesising what is in “the child’s best interests” are said to have been based on experiences gained from World War II orphans. Freud and  Bowlby (and others) worked with dysfunctional, deeply disturbed children with abnormal attributes, should their results be projected onto normal children and families ?  If this is so that it is another example of misapplying data. Anna Freud’s three best know books are “Beyond the Best Interests of the Child” (1973); “Before the Best Interests of the Child” (1979); and “In the Best Interests of the Child (1986). [33]

Modern books and tracts, e.g. “Family Law: Issues, Debates, Policy” by Jonathan Herring (pub’d 2001) also ignores the differences public and private law cases pose.

Right:  Jonathan Herring

 It doesn’t deal exclusively with private law or the functioning family per se, but examines it alongside public law and dysfunctional families scrutinising as of necessity the Adoption Act 1976 (which was still current into 2001).

Arguably there is all the difference in the world between children who have parents and those that have none, and all the difference in the world between parents who want and care about their children and those who don’t.

Why would you want to confuse four different scenarios ?

The problems surrounding the principles and the child’s best interests (CBI) with its flaw of “indeterminacy” and the resulting paradox’s in law that many social commentators see was highlighted in 1992 by the well known commentator John Eekelaar who suggested that t policies towards children,  (including CBI) should be premised  on a child’s rights. This has been endorsed by among others Stephen Parker. [34]                               

The consensus emerging in the early 1990s was that the “welfarism” approach should be rejected and replaced by a “rights-based” approach and for this to be adopted by courts. The promoting of ‘welfarism’ was seen as divisive and, it was argued, required adults to act towards children solely in accordance with the adult’s perception of the child’s welfare, so negating any pretence that any actions are in the CBI.

Several reasons make the alternative to ‘welfarism’ attractive to the men’s and fathers’ movement, though once again it is premised on a hypothetical format of what adults think is best for a child.

The rights-based approach relies instead on children’s claims. It requires a hypothetical judgment by the adult decision-maker of what duties children would want to be exercised towards them if they are fully informed of the relevant factors and of mature judgement. One benefit of the rights-based approach is that it does not abstract the child from his or her context.

The phrase “relevant factors and of mature judgement” could signal the emergence of ‘outcomes’ as a deciding factor for the adult decision-maker in future custody allocations.

A possible situation can be envisaged where the child will want to know its father, or will not want to be prevented from accessing both of its parents. This immediately takes power away from any ‘gate-keeping’ mother. The duty to keep children fully informed and for them to exercise their reasonable rights could; yield enormous benefits for both parent and child.

“Those who make decisions about children are increasingly required by law to act in the child’s best interests. At the same time, best interests standards are regarded as indeterminate, or worse. This article begins to explores the indeterminacy argument and then turns to ways in which, in practice, a degree of predictable operation may still result. It focuses on the role played by localized conventions on values and understandings of the world.” [35]

Off stage, out of sight of the public, the debate has raged between those who see a comparative efficiency in the discretion method of assessment and those who see infinitely greater advantages in employing rule-based adjudications for custody (see Schneider, 1992). Conventional wisdom would hold that permitting the use of ‘discretion’ in such cases would bring the advantage of  flexibility – implying each case could be dealt with as a unique set of circumstances – but also implying an element of speed. However, the leading British matrimonial judge of the 1970s – who virtually wrote all the court procedures and Judges’ Notes, the late Mr Justice Ormrod (1898 – 1979), made it clear the courts are not interested in such fanciful notions. [36]

“ … In 1973 in a case called Wachtel, Roger [Ormrod]  boldly announced, as was the fact, that in almost all cases both parties were to blame, usually in approximately equal shares, so that in financial proceedings conduct should be disregarded unless it was `both obvious and gross’. This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal and had a dramatic effect on subsequent financial proceedings. Matrimonial conduct could be ignored and the judges were able to concentrate on the practical problems facing the family after the divorce.”

As currently constructed, “flexibility” gives only assembly-line treatment to the victim parties. Yes, it is true every case is dealt with individually but they are all rubber stamped as if they were one amorphous mass. The result would be the same if 20 or 30 cases were bundled together and heard all at the same time.

9. Primary Caretaker Rule

Dogging any progress towards any change has been the circular but nonetheless very obstructive argument about who and what is the primary caretaker.

In the same way that the CBI concept can prevent balanced consideration of parental views so the parent-with-care criterion (PWC), under the Primary Caretaker rule, becomes a secondary but nonetheless impenetrable and destabilising factor frustrating re-evaluation of decision making.

Some writers have argued that, in custody disputes, a primary caretaker rule (or presumption thereof) would cut down decision costs and, looking backwards, would better serve the justice of such cases This is the view adopted, and has been for many years, by most researchers in this field, e.g. Fineman, 1989. However, the researchers are predominantly female and invariably write from a “feminists perspectives” (i.e. renouncing objectivity) and many are happy to be listed as such. [37]

Is this important ? In the context of custody there can be little doubt. When the issue is debated in the public domain, which is not often enough, the overwhelming body of evidence supplied for the debate is radicalised feminist in content.

Cathy Young, writing in The Boston Globe (23 January 2006) describes the shock she felt after seeing “‘Breaking the Silence”, a programme produced by Connecticut Public Television. [38]

“Last November, I wrote about the controversy about the Public Broadcasting Service documentary, ”Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories,” which claimed that male batterers and child abusers frequently gain custody of their children in divorce cases after the mothers’ claims of abuse are disbelieved by the courts. The film caused an outcry from fathers’ rights groups. In response to these protests, PBS announced a 30-day review to determine whether the film met the editorial guidelines for fairness and accuracy.”

A month later in Dec. 2005, the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) after intense pressure to justify their assertions  accepted that the film “’would have benefited from more in-depth treatment of the complex issues” but insisted that the program’s claims were supported by ”extensive” research.

“Connecticut Public Television, which co-produced ”Breaking the Silence,” has supplied me with two detailed reports — one from producer Dominique Lasseur, the other from Lasseur and George Washington University law professor Joan Meier, the film’s lead expert — on which PBS drew to support its conclusion. To call these reports shoddy and self-serving would be an understatement.”

Assertions found in learned journals that state, for example, that ‘abusive men are especially likely to seek custody of children’ and are ‘likely to prevail in court’ can be dismissed as simply slipshod, ineptly gathered evidence or meticulous adherence to a greater agenda.[39]

Looking back over time it is clear that prior to its politicisation, shared/joint custody worked satisfactorily in many parts of Britain (mainly in the Midlands and South).

If cutting down costs by avoiding delays in the decision making process is a criterion then the contemporary version, i.e. shared parenting, or a presumption thereof, as promoted by fathers groups should be adopted immediately.

In reviewing this subject the citations and sources are liberally sprinkled with inputs from feminist inclined authors. This is unavoidable the subjects has attracted more than its fair share of politicised commentators. However, they do contain some elements that are accurate and can be used to advance the cause of fathers, even if that was not their original intention.

As far back as 1988, Martha Fineman pointed out how essential it was, in the context of child custody policy for all parties to pretend to be interested in child issues and child rights (even though they may have had an entirely separate agenda and/or ulterior motives) if they were to stand any chance of winning a seat at the discussion table and being taken seriously. The pivotal role of this shallow sincerity cannot be over emphasised.

‘Asserting that a professional or political position conforms to, or is advanced in a manner designed to advance, the best interests of the child has become the rhetorical price of entry into the debate.’ – Fineman, 1988, p. 36.

For more than 30 years, i.e. since divorce was popularised among the masses, the court presumption of a primary caretaker has been that it would prevent delays and hence cut down on costs. The rationale invoked was that by looking backwards at how the children were raised the court and justice would better serve the family ‘needs’ in such cases.

But what is not linked at this point in the argument by any academic writer is the mindset of Ormrod in making the primary caretaker into a viable entity by confiscating all matrimonial assets.

The primary caretaker concept might have had some credibility in 1975 but as we have already noted a number of substantial societal changes have occurred. Those intimately engrossed in the topic describe how society has moved on, and with approx. 50% of the work force made up of women this is apparent to everyone.

The level of father commitment to a child’s upbringing and indeed the overt yearning of today’s father to be a proactive part and not merely to be content with ‘bringing home the bacon’, marks out the present generation and era as significantly different from any previous one.

Society does fathers and fatherhood a profound disservice by not moving with the times. Fathers are shackled by the outdated concepts contained within the 1989 Act which, 20 years ago, never envisaged and so was never designed for such a high level of pro-active fathers.

Who could have imagined in 1989 that by 2002 the term “house husbands” would be coined ?

However, even the elapse of time has not brought forth fresh judicial thinking. In the house husband case (chaired by Lord Justice Thorpe), custody should have been awarded, under the primary caregiver rule, to the ‘house husband’. Although he had looked after the children for 7 years Thorpe handed custody over to his careerist wife who had a salary of £300,000 pa.

The husbands secondary claim, namely of sexual discrimination by the courts, was not surprisingly dismissed by the Appeal Court as without foundation.[40]

Thorpe excused his behaviour by stating that despite the “unusual” role reversals in this case, the court could not ignore the “realities” of the “very different” traditional functions of men and women.

Left: Lord Justice Thorpe

He recognised that the wife had “sacrificed [her] opportunity to provide full-time care for their children in favour of a highly competitive profession” but had now thought again about her priorities.

Thorpe did not seem to realise that his argument works equally well for fathers who sacrifice their opportunity to be more involved with their children in order to earn a family wage.

Once again, Thorpe hobbled fathers’ chances for equality.

Perversely, when the father is unmarried and ths child illegitimate, Thorpe finds in favour of the father (see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1017922/Council-attacked-disgraceful-adoption-girl-fathers-wishes.html May 2008).

In many ways the legal system applies attitudes better suited to 1925 than 2005. The legislation of 1989 provides no relief – that has more to do with child abuse cases (ref. Cleeveland Inquiry) and public law than finding happy outcomes for chidlren of divorcing parents. [41]

10. Ditching  Indeterminacy

A feature of person-orientated, predictive decision-making (if that is the only alternative to welfarism), is its indeterminacy. It is said that decisions are consequently predictive rather than simply concerned with the determination of past events (although prediction may of course involve a consideration of past events).  ‘Ideterminacy’, by comparison, is akin to asking “How long is a piece of stnring ?”

Taking a relatively uncomplicated example of a custody dispute between parents, Mnookin points out that, to reach a rational decision, one would need to ascertain the probability of those alternative outcomes; here one encounters the difficulty that there are ‘numerous competing theories of human behaviour’; and how can one assign values to those factors to inform the final choice ?

There is an argument to be made that says such a position is an overly elaborate method which obfuscated more than it clarifies and in any event is lacking in relevance to the situation.

“Keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) is a maxim often used in commerce to good effect. The KISS option in the custody determination situation would be one that rested on predictable ‘outcomes’. Outcomes, which because they have been tracked over many decades and are common to all classes and countries, would mean more involvement by fathers would be necessary and more paternal custody time. This would lead to better outcomes for children and thus the CBI fetish would be assuaged.

Stephen Parker has written that value judgments are evident at all assessment stages and it is not surprising, therefore, that welfare decisions have been criticised as being subjective or arbitrary.

One way of addressing the problem of indeterminacy, Mnookin wrote in 1975 (so this problem has been recognised for more than a generation), “is to draw on a consensus, particularly on what does not promote children’s welfare.”

That is an objective, rationale approach to which all fathers could subscribe. What does not promote a child’s welfare could, in the main, be deduced from what factors give rise to poor outcomes (to be avoid) and which factors give rise to good outcomes (to be espoused).

Encouraging though this attractive alternative may be it is not wholly embraced by Helen Reece who believes that it is wrong for a child’s welfare to assessed, for example, be judging how closely his or her upbringing accords with ‘the norm’. When Helen Reece made that observation in 1996 it related to a court case over whether a child raised in a homosexual home would be disadvantaged. Since then statutes have been passed to outlaw such a view or court ruling. [42]

She misguidedly sees such an approach as impeding the debate about appropriate lifestyles and may stigmatise children living in ‘unusual’ families. Firstly, the debate about appropriate lifestyle has nothing to do with the CBI of the child and is a red herring. Secondly, as the experts are so fond to remind us how parents feel is immaterial because it is the CBI that must take precedence and in this case precedence over one’s sexual orientation.

Left: Helen Reece, London Law School

Thirdly, it is unconscionable to hold to ransom the future happiness of 99% of children for 0.01% of children, or less, that might be adopted by gay and lesbian couples.

It is a pity for fathers generally that Society allows its attention to be monopolised by the homosexual lobby which accounts for no more than 5% of the population. If gays and lesbians can have equality of treatment why does no academic ask why this can’t be extended to the other 95% of the male population ?

Gilmore continues by saying that today it may be necessary to question the alleged neutrality of the welfare principle. By this he means the way in which it is promoted and how it is dependent upon a vast array of historical and political decisions relating to how we are governed.

He lists two of those factors as being the choice between an individualist or collectivist approach to child-rearing and whether as a precondition to the State’s intervention to protect children, Parliament’s preference as to the criterion to be used should be for ‘significant harm’ rather than the simple but broad sweeping ‘welfare of the child’.

How those choices are made depends on whether society considers family privacy and autonomy as something to be highly prized in which case the State must of necessity adopt a minimalist role.

The very opposite is a society that embraces a large and very public role for the State in child-rearing.[43]

13. Future Adults

Long before the phrase “the personal is the political” was coined some 40 years ago it has been obvious that the State’s influence is not confined to its explicit political or juridical roles. Olsen wrote in 1985 that the family is not politically neutral.

For better or worse the State governs to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the country, the structures and roles within the family.

To focus solely on the child as being unjust to parents is being criticised not by fathers groups but by those that have closely study the subject. We live in a society where even if the decision-making criterion gave a preferment to adult and/or parental interests that bias would still have to yield and accept that  in particular sets of circumstances those interests would be outweighed by a child’s interests. At which point it is worth noting that the reciprocal would most likely not be true.

From that we can assume that any new custody format decided upon would be unlikely to impair a child’s legal rights and cultural freedoms.

Inversely, if a generation of children grow up knowing that they have a legal right to a preference over parents and can overturn their wishes, how will they cope when they are adults, lose those rights and find their life governed by minors ?

The argument runs that if, today, society was constructing a principle for the first time, the starting point would be equality and we would then adopt some principles of distributive justice.  The drawback to distributive justice is that it means all things to all men – clearly not a satisfactory state of affairs. 

We would, due to our cultural values, recognise a child’s need for special protection but does that special status stretch as far as denying ourselves justice ? Elster (1987). Would small gains in the arena of a child’s welfare/rights be achieved at the expense of large losses in parental welfare/rights ?

Would we be right to make that choice, or selecting the very opposite ?

By asking these questions we are challenging the assertion frequently advanced by sociologists to justify the welfare principle. Helen Reece comes to the same conclusions. She identifies and questions a number of the commonly advanced assertions to justify the welfare principle by asking do children have a right to have their welfare ‘prioritised’ ?

Advocates of the welfare principle suggest that children are more vulnerable – something no one would argue with- but as Reece highlights, it is a fallacy to confuse a). child protection with b). the necessity for it to involve a prioritisation of child welfare over all other considerations.

Then there is the argument that because it is adults who have created children – implying both selfishness and helplessness – that those parents’ lives should be put on hold or sacrificed because self-sacrifice is part and parcel of parenting.

Reece concludes that the justifications are not self-evident, and the argument for the welfare principle fails ‘because it assumes what is to be justified, namely a special position for children’ to the exclusion of adult interests.

In the bigger scheme of things, children must be given the opportunity to become successful adults. This can only happen by learning to fail and succeed, to suffer knock downs and set backs, as well helping hands and lucky breaks.

In a beautifully succinct sentence Reece argues how self-defeating it is to promote the future at the expense of the present:

‘If decisions are made which sacrifice adults’ interests to children’s interests there is little point in becoming a successful adult’

If we consider we are currently in a mess with Charles Murray’s “Underclass” generation all around us, who has thought through the next small step ? What is the point of becoming an adult, and a successful one at that, if the age of majority the “Underclass” generation feels that life is forever being subordinated to children’s interests ?

Compared with the current generation and that born in the late 1940s, they have not been equipped to cope with deferring gratification. Instant results are the diet they have been fed through their school and teenage years and upon which they have thrived upon. Both at home and in their recreational hours they have been assured by the adult world they meet that their opinions are worth listening to, are always considered and carry as much worth as anyone else’s. They cannot tolerate reprimands and censure at a personal level. They have not been educated to accept it as part of the growing up process and very probably this will carry over into an intolerance of demands that society will make of them.

Problematically for that generation, even civility and respect for others present as obstacles to a smooth transition. How they will cope with menial or demeaning work is dubious bordering on e chaotic so we should anticipate a clash  of cultures in other areas where they feel they have an opinion and a ‘right’ to be heard. The recent increase in violence by patients to be found in A & E Wards and towards ambulance staff doing their job could be a portal of things to come.

14. The Missing Dynamics

There is a danger that men, like Jonathan Herring, will take the line of least resistance or simply capitulate to intimidation from his peers. When he proposes that it might be a good idea to “reconceptualise” the welfare principle so that a child can ‘learn mutual respect and social obligation’ what exactly does he have in mind ?  In return for easing the excessive sacrifice parents have to make, Herring appears to propose minor or major benefits for children. Initially, it is immaterial if they are minor or major; rather it must be explained why any quid pro quo is being sought when easing the sacrifice and burden should be our primary concern.

Gilmore appears as unconvinced as probably do many divorced fathers and he neatly sums up the situation when he writes:

It seems, however, that this simply alters the paradigm in which conflict will continue, that is, what constitutes an appropriate ‘benefit’ or ‘sacrifice’ or what is excessive.

I remain unconvinced by a formulation of the welfare principle that fails to take any account of adults’ interests and treats adults simply as a means to the promotion of children’s welfare.

For many years the fathers’ movement has majored on the point that the law (our courts, judges and parliamentary law makers) and the apparatus that surrounds it, have blatantly abdicated their ethical and legal responsibilities. The checks and balances just aren’t their when you need them. Citizens are being oppressed by a system that advertises itself as caring and benign; when fathers ask for change the systems becomes deaf.

It is 8 years since the courts and the apparatus that surrounds them, failed 8 years old Victoria Climbie. In that year alone (2000) there were a further 6 child homicides that hit the headlines – and many others we never heard about. Every year around 100 to 110 children are abused past the point of dying – many of them linked to single mother and divorcée households.

The scandal and chilling tales unfolding from Haut de la Garenne, the children’s residential care home in Jersey is living proof of that:

Children are taken into care never to be seen again. Schools Minister Kevin Brennan has told the Commons that checks are unnecessary because children from the UK cannot be placed in care in Jersey without a court order.

Left: Kevin Brennan MP

Yet the five Birmingham children were sent to Jersey without such orders. [44]

These are public law cases and we know about them because we are allowed more freedom to learn about them. But we know nothing of private law cases where arguably the excesses are just as gross but preformed in secret courts. Faced by an appallingly incompetent or dangerous mother the possibility of father care/custody (temporary or not) is never ruled in by the professionals.

If CBI includes child safety and protection and if any new custody mandate is to embrace these factors then the present preferment for mother custody has to be suspended while it is re-examined. Of the homicides that, for instance, Women’s Aid like to accuse fathers of committing there are countless hundred of homicides that their presence has prevented.

Right: Sandra Horley, this time with dark hair, has headed Women’s Aid for over a decade 

Women’s Aid in a campaign against contact (visitation rights) alleged that they had found about 29 homicides by fathers over a 10 year period from 1994 to 2004. The actual number of homicides fluctuated depending upon which year their website was visited. Given that the annual child death rate from unnatural cases is 100+ that should tell all but the mentally challenged that 1,000 children (100pa  x 10 years) are needlessly dead and where future investigations should lie.

This has not deterred Women’s Aid. In 2005 Lord Justice Nicholas Wall was obliged to look into the numbers. His report published in March 2006 demolished Women’s Aid case about violent fathers and contact.

Left: Lord Justice Nicholas Wall

Of the 29 alleged cases Wall found only 3 that could be said to be related to contact issues and court procedures. Of those 3 cases there was nothing that would have alerted the professionals or judiciary as to what was to  happen later. [45] (See Annex for fuller information).

At the foot of the report he suggests a future meeting of the inter-disciplinary “Family Justice Council” and structured retraining for family court for judges. Whether they have met or published recommendations is unclear.

The alternative, namely of liberalising custody and contact, appears never to be entertained as an option. It might be reasonable to suppose that a fathers denied or persistently ‘messed about’ by a capricious ex-wife regarding contact visits is more likely, not less, to snap or become aggressive.

As if to underline the generational changes in the propensity of younger people to engage in violence recent Home Office figures show that during 2006 – 07 the number of women detained for violent offences reached 87,000. The key word is ‘detained’. Women defendants feature in the special domestic violence courts extremely rarely. As a society we are loathe to put women on trial; judges are reluctant to sentence them, [46] and so the police are reluctant to arrest or charge them.

This dynamic is perennially left out of the academic equations when considering futures changes and alternatives.

A second but very silent dynamic hinges on the hackneyed mantra that ‘the personal is the political’.

Feminism, in keeping with its Marxist roots, has always majored on wealth redistribution and never wealth creation. It effectively embraces the retort of the 19th century French anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that “property is theft”.

Little wonder that divorce after 1969 has seen a shift in asset ownership and clearly this was one element of feminist ‘empowerments’ that was deliberately not well advertised. The IPPR, a left wing think tank [47] , is pleased to recall for us that;

 “Tony Atkinson argued way back in 1972 that narrowing the wide disparities in wealth should be a priority for progressives” (Atkinson has written extensively on the rich and the super-rich. [48]

Policy makers have for many years discussed the role that wealth or assets play in people’s well being and in that time made blatant attempts to rewrite the natural order.

Unfortunately since the 1970s the situation has, because of its unnatural foundation, not favoured its target audience. Government sees women still living in relative poverty unable to progress beyond state hand outs and in the last decade poverty among SMH children has soared (ref UNICEF report).

Discussions about the role that wealth has so far only coined the phrase “asset-based welfare” where the state usurps the role left by the ousted father-figure (the establishment, liberals and the intelligentsia have yet to fasten on to the need to first create it). In its latest incarnation, the Child Trust Fund or “baby bond” launched in 2003, the IPPR .notes it is but one ‘specific policy’ with broader implications of asset-based welfare to be rolled out across other public policy matters.

However, to make a society work one first has to make marriage work; from that then flows the self-sustaining family system becomes economically viable and thrives. The state only comes into existence after this and at the point when taxes are paid – in effective it is the hired help. The hired help exceed its remit when it then tries to unremittingly punish marriage and the family system. In doping so it jeopardises the future workforce and national wealth which depend on the birth rate.

This other dynamic perennially left out of the equation is violence – but this time female inflicted violence. Violence is its many forms presents no particular danger. It can and has been dealt with using a variety of techniques. However, that is only true of ‘public’ disorder or violence. How we deal with female violence and maternal violence in the privacy of a household is problematical.

Despite a procession of reports and warnings the media and politicians seem genuinely shocked Melanie Phillips wrote on October 24th 1999 (Sunday Times) how women were at least as violent as men, but that at every opportunity the evidence was everywhere being dismissed. The impact on A & E of increasing numbers of young women requiring medical attentions was noted in 2004.[49]                                                                                        

Above: Girls fighting has passed the verbal bitching, hair pulling and face slapping to clenched fist punching and kicking

By May 2008 headlines were appearing that asked, “Why are girls fighting like boys ?”  [50]

The theme first expressed by Melanie Phillips in 1999 was still making the headlines 10 years later (July 2008) with “Violence takes over from shop-lifting as the crime women most often commit.[51]

Left: Young women fighting violently in the street

In the same year (Tues Dec. 14th 2004) the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs looked into the abuse of children by mothers.

The emphasis was on violence in general and younger women and young mothers. The questions and answer taken from the Minutes are pertinent enough to reproduce in part below.

Q.209 Mrs Cryer: “Can I put a question to the NSPCC. This Committee has received sub-missions which suggest that in cases which involve the neglect and physical or sexual abuse of children the children were more likely to be living with their natural mother alone. Have you any evidence to support this?”

Ans. Phillip Noyes (NSPCC): “It is very difficult that way round. In terms of who perpetrates abuse, the NSPCC’s prevalence study, which looked at a sample of about 3,000  18-24 year olds talking about what had happened to them when they were  younger, suggested that more women than men physically abused children and neglected them, and more men than women sexually abused them. Because  of the limitations of the data collection, that did not take into account the incidence of children living with their natural mothers on their own.

Previous research that we had done, which was on incidence that was based on child protection registers, suggested that when you controlled for the domestic arrangements of children then men were probably round about twice as likely to be afflicting physical abuse on children than women”. – Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs [52]

Today the current mainstream thinking vis-à-vis child abuse is epitomised by Lord Justice Wall when he wrote:

“It is, in my view, high time that the Family Justice System abandoned any reliance on the proposition that a man can have a history of violence to the mother of his children but, nonetheless, be a good father”  – Report by Wall LJ re: WAFE’s DV Allegations, Para  8.22 (2006).

Presumably, fathers who are professional soldiers and earn their living by killing have, by this logic, unsuitable credentials and have no chance at all of seeing their children after a divorce ?

This presumption is perhaps more a reaction to anecdotal evidence than to hard evidence. Wall is here seen succumbing to political fashion rather than relying on empirical knowledge and is forsaking the rulings of his predecessors who formulated their rule of thumb for good reason (see also Annex).

15. Looking Ahead

Men’s and fathers groups have, since the 1980s, been critical of the way ‘welfare matters’ are dealt with and the obvious lack of research based knowledge or education exhibited by CWO. Fathers long suspected the training given to CWO was inappropriate for separating married couples. This was confirmed later in the 1990s with the demise of the Probation Service and launch of CAFCASS.

One of the first books published on child and youth care was “Wayward Youth” by August Aichhorn in 1935. It contained the idea of adults acting ‘in the child’s interest’ who were in ‘residential’ care in North America and this is said to have become the touchstone for child and youth care practice

Therefore, with no comparable book for divorcing parents, i.e. private law cases, it is not too surprising that Aichhorn’s book for public law cases should become influential in the initial thinking behind how child custody in divorce cases should be administered. If social workers, their supervisors and managers were to be given structured training it would be reasonable to believe that they would start from a unified model or framework already to hand.

This is not to say that books about child care never existed prior to this date. One of the most influential was Dr Spock of the 1940s and 1950s. [53] However, he dealt with children in the normal two parent family situation and so too did earlier books printed in the Victorian era.

For its part, government has recently taken to emphasising how important fathers are to families. Unfortunately, the effort to re-assure men that they are as equal in parenting as mothers is, at best, pure hyperbole.

When the claim undergoes a reality check it is seen to amount to little more than gesture politics.

The British government’s White Paper “Recording Responsibility” (June 2008) is such a candidate. [54] Very quickly even journalists tumbled to the fact that government policy wasn’t really interested in fathers’ human rights or a father’s equality inside the family but was transfixed, as always, in finding more ways unloading the spiralling expense of subsidising single mother households by contributions from men (a policy originally created by government and inter-departmental meetings in the early 1970s to encourage divorce with state subsidies).

When we cut to the chase, all this devolves down to custody, inclusion and guardianship and this in with Helen Reece’s comments above, and Law Commission reports No 91 and No 96.

Fathers in 2008 have no custody rights and are not allowed to participate in their children’s lives after a divorce.

Gilmore brings to the debate not just legal cases and sources that we might not otherwise have discovered, but vitally, the perspective from his side of the fence. Fathers are no longer howling in the wilderness. There is something of a crisis in the academic world and a recognition that the fathers rights movement have to taken into any future reckoning.

16. Fathers Apart

Fathers, as a class, are seldom included (and seldom feel included), either in debates about them or about their children lives. Fathers (in Britain) now find their natural parental guardianship status has been abolished and given to the Family Court.

Take just one instance in time – May to July 2008. These months reinforced how far men and fathers have been marginalised in society. Those two months saw a further weakening of the role of fathers.

In May MPs voted to reject an amendment to retain the need for both a “father and a mother” to be a condition of fertility treatment. The amendment brought by Conservative MP Ian Duncan Smith was defeated by 292 votes to 217. [55]  Thus Parliament passed for the first time legislation deliberating omitting the role of the ‘father’ and enabling a woman to create an IVF child who would never have or know its ‘father’.

In July Prime Minister Gordon Brown bitterly clashed with Harriet Harman MP (deputy leader) over abortion laws to be extended for the first time to Ulster. [56]

Plans to radically alter how state benefits were to be paid to the long-term unemployed people and force them into work leaked out ahead of the Glasgow East by-election – an area of high unemployment.[57]  These plans bear disproportionately on men who are four time more to be unemployed than women but who receive no special measures or training incentives that are available to women claimants.

The prospect for the Labour Party of losing the impending by-election in a safe Scotland Labour seat, however, probed irresistible. Plans were dropped; the Catholics vote was listened to. [58]

The Fathers’ Movement has yet to become the force that the church currently represents in catholic Glasgow East. If  we are ever going to force government into suddenly abandoning its legislation we must use surrogates of the sort provided by the solicitor with the Sally Clark team  [59] and the campaign that The Times has launched against closed/secret courts:-

Sir,

As a solicitor with the Sally Clark team I can testify to the way in which the justice system can be perverted to convict the innocent and destroy their families. It can prove fatal. Sally Clark died in March 2007, aged 43. Criminal cases are conducted openly; the standard of proof is guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The public know the identity of those charged, the details of the crime, whether guilt or innocence is the result and the length of any prison term. Possible miscarriages of justice can be fully investigated and victims can voice their complaints to anybody. None of these protections of openness exist in the family courts. … / …..  “ – Family courts must open up”,

Left: Sally Clark leaving court

All this comes on top of the erosion not to say corrosion of society and men’s place in it by measures such as the abolition of anonymity for sperm donors. From 2004 children have been given the right to trace their biological father which may be of great emotional benefit to them but concerns itself not with the injustice of its retroactive nature or how lethal this is to men’s privacy and the sperm donor scheme itself. If women who provided the core eggs for IVF could be similarly tracked down by children they gave life to and for her current children to know they had secret half-brothers or sisters, then the issue would not be so sexist.[60]

There is, therefore, a growing realisation within the various professions that their world is under scrutiny and that gross errors have been made in the past. This realisation is coinciding with a re-evaluation in academic papers of past practice and assumptions.

Professionals in every social walk of life, from health visitors, social services, district nurses, to court welfare offices, to school teachers, to town councils, local initiatives, to doctors and hospitals, have traditionally erected a cordon sanitaire around fathers.

Instead of seeking to include fathers and enlist their support society has so altered that it has systematically excluded and discriminated them in a way that it has become the ‘norm’ but has brought about a parlous situation.

Fathers have become an embarrassment to the New Order.

There is a political wish that is desperate we should all see divorce as having evolved “beyond politics”; beyond feminism; questions of gender rights and beyond our own personal squeamishness.

In that manner what 20 yeas ago would be viewed as objectionable and abnormal can be absorbed over time and the paradigm shift to a new order achieved. The procedure has been successful in many walks of life including custody and male/father rights.

The political imperative is desperate not to let fathers groups, e.g. F4J, pull it back to the reality that divorce is politics and has been used in that guise shamelessly. Politically it would ruin many ambitions were the men’s movement able to conflate the rights of fathers with the rights of children.  Ruinous because the conflating or welding together of rights is what women’s groups have done so admirably and they would then see their ruse had not only been discovered and mimicked but would be unable to combat it without appearing fraudulent.

In the new epoch of socially engineered alternative family life styles, where “vibrant and upwardly mobile” single women are extolled, women generally are meant to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives by having both full-time careers and children. By accessing these two components – personal intimacy of the emotional kind is meant to be supplied by a ever ready supply of transient boyfriends (who one has to supposes are meant to be devoid of the reciprocal need for emotional intimacy, and have no need for meaningful and fulfilling lives).

It is a model that can never work.

A schism has developed between the intent of policy and the accompanying verbiage (sometimes referred to as “spin”) and the action on the ground to bring about real change in family life.

However, the only real change that has been brought about in family life is increased poverty both actual and spiritual.

17. Muddying the Waters

Fathers groups have argued for many years that the principle of child paramountcy in family law has been taken too far. It has, in the process, become distorted. Helen Reece, a lecturer at Birkbeck College London joins with fathers in the arguments against ‘paramountcy’ in family law disputes.

There has always been a sneaking suspicion that claims to place children’s needs  above all others is at best artificiality inflated and it is good to see Reece accepting this point.

She makes the philosophical point that the justification that children represent the future forever ranks the future of greater importance than the present (pp. 279-280).

In the American context, of promoting the general welfare the historian Linda Gordon believes that the strategic political choice always to place children first.

Left: Linda Gordon

This, at first sight, would appear to be the British experience. However, Linda Gordon adds the caveat that the strategic political choice extends also to women inasmuch as they are the ones that must care for children. For the late 20th century this appears somewhat sexist if not something of a contradiction (L. Gordon 1995).

In a critical review of Helen Reece’s  work, Susan Sterett (Dept of Political Science, University of Denver) says Reece provides an excuse to not only to question child custody laws in Britain but to re-think welfarism and the family in general. [61]

Perhaps subliminally influenced by her American culture and it penchant for fashionable value systems, Susan Sterett argues that the paramountcy principle has allowed judges to enact biases against gay and lesbian parents (pp.286-287).

Right: Susan Sterett

What this has to do with CBI is obscure but it illustrates how homosexual and lesbian rights swamp any debate in these contemporary times.

Sterett then complains that British courts have a bias against gay and lesbian parents believing that children in gay and lesbian households are more likely to be abused. This, she says, is without any evidence but in the UK the subtext of courts awards is that they must have regard to the potential for violence (see Annex, Wall LJ report, March 2006). It is an uncomfortable truth that the incidence and prevalence of domestic violence in homosexual and lesbian relationships is shown by surveys to be much higher than in heterosexual couples. It follows that courts cannot go against their own rules when they have been under so much intimidation by women’s groups opposed to alleged male violence.

Courts, Sterett argues feel they must support nuclear families (pp. 290-299). But isn’t this an oxymoron because the courts she has in mind are being asked to dissolve the nuclear family. Undeterred, Sterett sees all this as a manifestation of homophobia. In an attempt to promulgate Gay Rights, she appears to forget ‘first principles’, namely the children come first in our society, not any sexual deviancy or orientation.

Some would see Susan Sterett becoming hopelessly confused as she battles to embrace child custody laws, parents rights and discrimination against gays and lesbians who are the only sub- group that have had to create and then proclaim rights that come naturally to the other two groups.

Muddled thinking and mismanagement has begun to take its toll on the establishment.

Left: Mr Justice Coleridge, one of the good guys

Mr Justice Coleridge made national headlines in Britain when at the Resolution National Conference 5 April 2008, spoke of the ‘meltdown’ of family life: [62]

“. . . . . I am afraid that the time has come for family judges to speak out publicly in protest at the way in which the Family Justice system in this country has been and is being mismanaged and neglected by government.”

“  . . . . Consider for a moment what the circumstances of our society are about which I now speak. The circumstances are none other than the state of family life in our land, the very backdrop for the work of all those involved in the Family justice system. Its very stock in trade.

For as long as history has recorded these things, stable family life has been co-extensive and co-terminous with a stable and balanced society.”

“. . . . . In some of the more heavily populated urban areas of the country Family life is, quite frankly, in meltdown or completely unrecognisable .

What is certain is that almost all of society’s social ills can be traced directly to the collapse of the family life. We all know it.”

“. . . . Behind every contact dispute is mismanaged parental separation.”

The last phrase “Behind every contact dispute is mismanaged parental separation” has reverberations far beyond the obvious. Gay and lesbian are a distraction; academics dancing on a pinhead is of no relevance to real world problems.

If either Susan Sterett or Helen Reece believe that gay and lesbian households (0.005%) [63] have moral claims equal to those of straight households then one or both have no real life experience of how courts work for heterosexual couples, and fathers in particular. If Sterett’s view prevailed it would prove a Pyrrhic victory for homosexual and lesbian campaigners.

One thing that became crystal clear to fathers’ groups who were allowed to participate in the PSA-8 process was just how poorly trained were family court judges. Considering their onerous responsibility for deciding a child’s future and his / her ‘life chances’, judges were appallingly ignorant of even the most primary facts. PSA-8 (‘Public Service Agreements 8’) was designed to deliver more contact time for fathers and their children.

Public Service Agreements (PSA) were introduced by the Treasury in 1998 as a tool to control other Whitehall departments, providing them with a framework for performance management. They are supposed to not only ‘galvanise’ public services into action but into delivering them and driving forward major improvements in outcomes.

Prompted by the Children Act Sub-Committee (CASC) that had reported annually on the progress of the 1989 Act,

Spruijt – sliced and diced

A critical review of:

Frequency of contact with non-resident fathers and adolescent well-being: A longitudinal analysis; By Spruijt, A.P., Goede, M.P.M. de, Valk, I.E. van der; Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Volume 40, (2004), pp: 77-91

By Peter Tromp & Robert Whiston, June 2009

Summary

Translating into plain English Ed Spruijt’s paper regarding the frequency of contact with non-resident fathers (see above) one has to conclude that either he is a radical feminist in trousers, who sees little virtue in his own sex, or has wasted his time and the resources of the Utrecht University in accessing the longitudinal study funded by that University.

Longitudinal studies are always expensive to undertake and are always to be preferred over attitudinal studies that can last a day rather than years and seek the immediate response or opinion of those questioned.

Attitudinal studies are cheap but open to manipulation by loaded questions in a way that longitudinal studies are not meant to be. Alas, the Spruijt paper confounds this long held view of superiority; his study appears to be based on only 164 young people, although it is undertaken over several years.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s there were always those in the academic world that argued that fathers were not needed for the successful raising of children. It became a fashionable pose to strike rather than a factual attitude (Appendix 1).

Rebecca O’Neill in “Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” (Sept 2002) describes the mood in this way:

“In the 1970s and 1980s many people argued that the traditional family – based upon a married biological father and mother and their children – was outdated. Under the guise of ‘freedom of choice’, ‘self-fulfillment’, and ‘equal respect for all kinds of families’, feminists and social rebels led a campaign to experiment with different family structures. Sometimes it was claimed that women and children did not need men, and were, in fact, often better off without them. On occasion it was said that families were not breaking down, they were just changing; that the most important thing for children was their parents’ happiness and self-fulfilment; and that children were resilient and would suffer few negative effects of divorce and family disruption. The idea of ‘staying together for the children’s sake’ was often derided. Some parents embraced the new thinking, but not all of those who took part in the ‘fatherless family experiment’ were willing subjects. As the idea that mothers and children did not need fathers took hold, many social and legal supports for marriage weakened. Some mothers and children were simply abandoned. Some fathers were pushed away.”[1]

The 1990s saw those blinkers slowly falling away and the 21st century saw 30 year old reputations begin to crumble as it became increasingly obvious that if two parents are best – a critical point conceded during the1990s – then fathers are equally essential in lone parent families. A point unequivocally conceded by Government in 2007 when “Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility” was published by the Department for Works and Pensions. [2]

The ‘liberation’ of women that feminist sought, and partially achieved, had the result of either precipitating a social collapse or of coinciding  with that collapse (see 1971 in Fig 1).

The ONS diagram shown here represents actual and predicted total fertility rate (TFR) and average completed family size (CFS), for 1951–2025 (United Kingdom).[3]

An unexpected complication faced all across Europe is the potential impossibility of funding pensions – principally for retired women who live the longest.

Feminist legislation penalised men when they divorced and gradually this had the effect of deflating marriage rates, lowering replacement rates and limiting family size.

All across Europe measures have been put in place to generously support if not reward lone motherhood while at the same time detaching fathers from their children.

Sue Slipman’s book “Would You Take One Home with You ?[4] epitomises the contemporary view of female superiority and invincibility – though this female arrogance was based on unspoken subsidies from the taxpayer (see also “Price of Parenthood” by Jill Kirby, Centre for Policy Studies, 2005).

Fortunately for humanity, the concession of the indispensability of fathers was squeezed out of a reluctant academia not by elegant theories but by truths that could not be overturned and by ‘outcomes’ which could not be countered.

One of the first to point out the fallacies and flawed thinking in the feminist dogma was Patricia Morgan in her groundbreaking book  “Farewell to the Family ?” This was quickly followed by publication of “Charles Murray & the Underclass – The Developing Debate” by Charles Murray et al. Dec. 1996, IEA.

1. The debate has moved on

To summarise, Ed Spruijt’s paper embraces much of this now discredited feminist dogma; a dogma that finds it impossible to accept that fathers should play any sort of significant role in the development of growing children.

Ed Spruijt, who also writes under the title of A. P. Spruijt, concludes in his 2002 paper (“Frequency of Contact with Non-resident Fathers and Adolescent Well-Being: A Longitudinal Analysis”), that the frequency of contact (called ‘visitation’ rights in the US) between a non-resident parent, i.e. the father, and a child is not generally connected to a child’s general well-being. His recurring theme is one that emphasises the unimportance of fathers and that fathers don’t matter as much as they would like to believe (cf. fathers groups such as ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ and others).

Spruijt ignores the reality that the latest government and academic thinking now reflects the views held by fathers groups for the past 30 years.

Instead, he appears wedded to the notion that if children don’t see their fathers they will be fine (Anna Freud in the 1940s had a similar out-dated attitude). He adopts this stance on the pretext that children who have to grow up in families where there is ‘conflict’ between the parents will be ‘damaged.’ The logic of this misguided view is therefore to conclude that all contact is damaging to children and that all fathers should be shut out of their children’s lives. (He does not explain how children can grow ‘undamaged’ in households where the parents are married but have an average number of arguments).

This, of course, is the radical feminist’s ideal state of affairs, their nirvana is a social order where men can be excluded at will from their children and permanent marriage abolished.

A paradise where a woman can chooses to be pregnant or not – and by who; where she can abort any pregnancy without reference to anyone, especially the father; to not have to worry about income or housing; to not be dependent on a man and choose not have a man around the place.

Behind the public gloss of seeking a favorable reception these are the raw attributes that all Feminist Theories and morals have, for the past 40 years, sought to achieve. Paradoxically these ‘modern’ theories are premised on 19th century writings and on men with bizarre views of women and family such as Engels (Appendix 2).

To then realise that the author of these contaminated thoughts is the main spokesperson for the Dutch version of CAFCASS (Kinderbescherming) is both a body blow to children and fathers and a contradiction to any claim the Kinderbescherming may make about its fairness towards both parents.

2. Repressing Numbers

It is essential for those within the Kinderbescherming to realise that there are two simple elements, two estates, in all separated families that must not be lost sight of. Firstly, the ‘good enough parent’ and secondly the ‘not so good enough parent.’ Both categories contain a wide range of diversity but it is the not so good enough parent which is numerically much smaller.

For example, in England, CAFCASS recognises 5% of all parents pose problems of varying seriousness.

The reciprocal of this is that 80% to 90% of parents are ‘good enough parents’ and pose no problems (Pareto’s law). The following illustration (Fig 2) depicts the proportions involved.

It is therefore utter madness that national custody matters should be decided by a minority 5% of parents when policy should be determined by what is happening in the majority of instances.

Policy should be dictated by rules suitable for the majority of cases with exceptions and provisions made therein for the tiny minority who represent what CAFCASS terms intractable cases among the ‘not so good enough’ parents.

Nevertheless, this is the premise adopted by Spruijt when he states that because there is a possibility of conflict in some families, all families must be judged the same.

When he concluded in 2002 that frequency of contact between a non-resident parent and a child was not generally to children’s well-being, he camouflaged the scenario he was describing, namely, one where ‘high conflict’ levels in a small number of families have negative effects upon children (this is the same ploy used by feminist writers, e.g. J. Hunt, B. Neale).

Could there be any other outcome, one wonders ? On both sides of the argument, fathers and Spruijt, there is common agreement that conflict and violence, tension and stress in the home is bound to affect children’s emotional and psychological well-being.

It is so obvious, that it doesn’t need to be stated ? But does it need to be used as a poor excuse to bar to all fathers when the same could be said of equally destructive mothers ?

The conflation of good family experiences with bad ones is typical of a certain section of academia. One has in mind here the work of the English academics Joan Hunt and Brenda Neale.[5] Both decry shared or co-parenting. However, upon closer examination of their methodology one discovers they are focusing on “high conflict” families.

One also finds that the academic definition of co-parenting – the term constantly preferred to that of shared parenting – is the reason for much resistance.

Co-parenting is defined as encompassing children who spend more than 40% of their time with one parent. This is not what fathers groups define as shared parenting; they see shared parenting as a post divorce joint venture with no rigidly set of hours or days per parent. They see shared parenting as fully flexible and ranging from say, 20:80 to 50:50 and to 80:20, if the mother’s work patterns demand it.

In 2001, the percentage of children who were subject to a co-parenting (shared parenting) agreement totaled 4% (Ed Spruijt, Scheidingskinderen, 2007, pp. 17-18). This data is based upon a group of children with divorced parents, including 17% of children whose parents had co-habited – this is also cited by Christina G. Jeppesen de Boer. [6]

Is it any wonder that there is ‘little evidence to support shared parenting’ and similar claims, when it is only 4% of the total population ?

It is at this junction of a). 4% and b). high conflict families that the true extent of the problem is revealed to be not huge but incredibly small. High conflict families are everywhere spoken of as if numerous and associated with shared parenting. and yet why should this be so when a category restricted to 4% must surely be manageable ?

3. The Conflict Myth

It seems alien to their thought processes that all the alternatives of post-divorce arrangements could prove to be unsuitable for some of these ‘high conflict’ families – and that would include sole mother custody.

Some, but not all, ‘high conflict’ families pose a threat to children but many such families can manage successfully with a little outside assistance.

However, the emotional volatility of mothers in these families is such that the risk of child abuse is higher and a child’s safety can only be improved by the presence of a father (Appendix 3). Australian data, post 2006 reforms, show that it is instability of mothers that is most likely to produce father preference custody – albeit shared.

The academics’ collective answer to tackling the fall-out from these ‘high conflict’ families is a blanket ban on fathers from seeing their children. This assumes the dysfuntionality stems either from the father alone or from the friction resulting by the social interchange between father and mother. This, despite the conventional wisdom, valid until the 1980s as Spruijt admits, where “it was more or less taken for granted that contact between the non-resident parent and the children was always positive (Crombach & Elzinga, 1989).”

However, there is another source of conflict, namely the instability of the mother herself. Since she is left alone once the authorities have detached the father from the family, we have little idea how children fare with a mother who might be in need of psychological support and can no longer pick on or bully the visiting father. Indeed, judicially orphaned children may create a climate of friction for the newly divorced mother that she cannot then cope with.

In Britain, which has seen a surge in the numbers of child abuse cases in the past 30 years (and the increasingly horrific nature of those abuses), Lord Laming has twice been asked by government to report on how and why children are abused.

The conclusion of Lord Laming’s second report (May 2009) is that when all the state apparatus has failed it is fathers in the final analysis that help keep children safe from abuse. [7] A conclusion pioneered by Patricia Morgan in 1995.

Rebecca O’Neill is only one of many writers who have recently pointed to the low self-esteem and psychological unsuitability of many women. The day treatment rate for women/mothers in need of psychiatric help is far greater than for men/fathers. The admittance into psychiatric facilities is also dominated by women. [8]

The upshot of Lord Laming’s second report (into child abuse) is that the public is finally aware of what was previously swept under the carpet, namely that in Britain 200,000 children are at risk of abuse in their own homes and that as many as 350,000 children have parents who have serious drug habits.

When another 1.3 million children live with parents who drink heavily one has to question whether the present custody bias is fair to children, and whether focusing on ‘conflict’ between parents is actually the most important thing for children safety after divorce (Appendix 3).

4. The New Face of Conflict and Aggression

The words, aggressive, violent and hostile all conjure up images associated with men and, indeed, Spruijt’s paper trades on this misconception.

The ratio of male violence to female violence and its propensity in everyday life has been rapidly closing since the 1980s (see D. Dutton, Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz 1980, etc). Spruijt and fellow sociologists have yet to absorb this dynamic into their academic work.

Those that give an opinion about violence in general, and in particular about domestic violence and even of rape, write as if from a 19th century moral stance. They have yet to move on and embrace the female morals of the 21st century.

Perceptions have change – some would say radically – of how women see themselves and how they behave. What women today see as tolerable and their right, academics might not agree.

The ‘Ladette culture’ is just such an expression of modern female perceptions. Below is a not untypical scene of girl violence to be found nightly on British street up and down the country.

Three girls are caught on a town’s CCTV assaulting not another girl but a young man. One is keeping him still on the ground while another repeatedly kicks him.

The age group that poses the most danger to society’s fabric is the 16 to 22 age category.

These are the girls who will, in a few short years, move on to become pregnant, mothers and then separated mothers.

Partying’ is another new dimension.  Never in social history have young mothers deliberately left their infants at home while they ‘party’ returning the early hours sodden with alcohol.

What sort of non-resident father would want to tangle with mothers like these ?

The abandonment of deferred gratification is the direct by-product of materialism and the feminist movement behind it.

Not content with fighting men they fight one another.

It is the police who have to break up the drunken and brawling women with the insipient risk of being falsely accused of improper touching or handling of the suspect who may be resisting arrest.

The situation in most large urban areas became so grave that in 2004 a Select Committee look into the situation and the trend in violent women arrests.[9]

Further information on this aspect of modern female behaviour can be found at:

In June it emerged the number of women involved in alcohol-related trouble has increased by almost a third in two years while, in May, figures showed females are now involved in a quarter of violent attacks. The number of women convicted for domestic violence has also risen sharply and has been blamed on an aggressive “ladette” culture…

5. Pathologies

Pathologies among children such as exhibiting poor school attendance, poor academic achievement, poor discipline, etc, could be indicators of being bullied or picked upon, i.e. victimised, at home.

If, as Spruijt implies, the only important thing for children of divorce is that there is no conflict around them – and in so doing legitimises the basis for barring fathers – then he must be at a loss to explain why children do so well in the traditional married two parent family where conflict and stress is a regular occurrence.

Conversely, why do children of unmarried mothers do poorly when there is little or no fatherly contact and, therefore, little or no levels of conflict ?

Pathologies that characterise SMH (single mother households) are not to be found among the children of a). widows and b). single father households. Spruijt does not begin to tackle this confounding issue.

While not wishing to under-emphasise conflict and tension, learning how to deal with these factors is part of growing up, and arguably is why children from traditional married two parent families are better prepared to lead a successful adult life.

The last four decades have seen a phenomenal increase in the numbers divorces across the entire western world and somewhat belatedly it is being realised that the model from 40 years ago does not work.

The consequence of refusing to address this deficiency is that the longer we let one divorce year slip into another the more damage is done to children without remedying the situation.

Until relatively recently it was an imperative to show by scientific research how inconsequential was the damage caused to children by the lack of contact with its non-resident fathers after a divorce.

Spruijt rests much of his case on studies that are now 10 or more years old, e.g. Amato & Gilbreth, 1999, and King & Heard, 1999. Times have moved on since the otherwise much respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) funded a 1998 report by two antipodean academics, Dr. Jan Pryor and Professor Bryan Rodgers (see Appendix 4), which concluded that:

“Although short-term distress at the time of separation is common, this usually fades with time and long-term adverse outcomes typically apply only to a minority of children experiencing the separation of their parents.”  [10]

Pryor & Rodgers; report was greeted with howls of disbelief at the time and heavily discounted as being out of touch with reality. However, it epitomised a decade where funded studies (inc. JRF) sought to portray divorce as having little detrimental effect on children.

Amato & Keith began the decade by concluding that parental divorce generally had only small negative effects on the adjustment of children (Amato & Keith, 1991a, and 1991b). How this could have been taken seriously is today difficult to explain considering that from the 1960s through the 1970s the detrimental effect on children was acknowledged to be considerable.

The ‘small negative effects’ experienced by children growing up in families that are not continuously intact were defined then in a way that would cause concern to us today:

“. . ..  adolescents who have gone through the divorce of their parents are more likely to experience emotional problems, less likely to attend or complete college, more likely to display problematic behavior, and more likely to engage in early sex and experience relational problems (Amato & Keith, 1991a, 1991b; Simons, 1996).

These negative effects of divorce apply to young children as well as to adolescents, and both short- and long-term effects have been found (Amato & Keith, 1991a, 1991b; Chase-Lansdale, Cherlin, & Kiernan, 1995).”

However, the Bauserman’s meta-analysis (2002), demolishes the last defences to this position.

In a meta-analysis of 33 research papers, Bauserman found that children growing up in shared parenting arrangements between both parents after divorce and separation did much better than children growing up under the sole care of one parent. His study confirmed the original better outcomes for children living in shared parenting arrangements that began to emerge in the 1980s.

In ‘The Disposable Parent’ (Roman & Haddad, 1978) it was argued that joint residence was the best post-divorce arrangement and that courts should begin with a rebuttable presumption of joint residence. Roman & Haddad shared with Goldstein, Freud, & Solnit, the idea that children need consistency and continuity of affection.

6. Confounding the Custody Convention

Among the themes published in American Psychological Association journal was that children in shared parenting arrangements exhibited higher levels of self-worth – a classic symptom absent in children of lone mother households.

Bauserman’s analysis showed that, even when taking into account, i.e. “controlling for”, the influences of pre-existing levels of conflict between separating parents, children still fared better in a shared parenting environment. This immediately debunks the popular counter-argument that any beneficial factors of shared parenting rely on families having low or no levels of conflict.

Spruijt seeks to dismiss the importance of fathers by questioning the mainstream assumption, namely, that it is always beneficial for the development of children to have contact with their father. Anna Freud’s singularly perverse contribution to this general discussion was also to advocate the non-involvement of fathers in their children’s lives. [11]

The school of thought that gathered around Anna Freud held that any post–divorce contact between parents as inherently confrontational, dangerous and/or violent. Awarding sole custody to mothers achieved the twin ambitions of limiting a father’s access to his children and restricting any dangerous confrontational scenes with his former wife.

In 1925 Anna Freud had met Dorothy Burlingham the ex-wife of an American millionaire who sought Freud’s psycho-analytical skills for her four children. They were in effect Freud’s guinea pigs but the world would not know for many decades that her treatment of the Burlingham children was an utter disaster. Its lethality led to alcoholism and the suicide of one of the children in Freud’s own home. [12]

Unaware of this experimental disaster (which was deliberately kept a closely guarded secret for over 40 years), academia and the judiciary began embracing the theories on the basis that they were fully tested and functional.

Anna Freud thus became absurdly influential in government circles and in the four decades after 1945. Her false findings powerfully reinforced the gathering assumptions in the judiciary, particularly Lord Justice Roger Ormrod who piloted the changes wrought by the 1969 Divorce Reform Act. [13]

Proof that these misguided principles are still affecting nearly every child’s life today is provided by Richard Warshaks who writes:

‘They reinforced the folklore, sentiment and sexual stereotypical views of mother as nurturers substituting them for factual information when deciding custody matters.’ [14]

Spruijt believes research shows the relationship between the frequency of contact and a child’s well-being is not well defined.

He supports this view by quoting Amato (1994) and Valarie King (1999), Amato and Gilbreth (1999), who all conclude that the frequency of contact does not relate to the children’s well-being.

7. Parental Authority

The legal position in the majority of European counties is that both parents should have parental authority and/or responsibility. This would surely be frustrated if Spruijt’s views were to prevail – or unless he knows (as we know) that having parental authority means nothing, has no teeth and is unconnected with the right to see ones children ?

Yet confusingly for the reader he cites Hines (1997) who maintains “A positive relationship between parent and adolescent may improve the negative consequences of a divorce.”

In his plan to discount fathers’ importance he cites the near 20 year old source of Furstenberg & Cherlin (1991), who state that on the basis of the latest research data (circa 1990) they cannot unhesitatingly advise that regular contact with the non-resident, non-caring parent will always be in the child’s best interest.

This is so true as to be not worthy of inclusion by Spuijt. No one can say unhesitatingly that regular contact with a non-resident will always be in the child’s best interest – and if asked now, in 2010, they would be far less hesitating one can assume.

One has to take instead a broader view. It is a little disingenuous of Spruijt to include this divisive phrase in his ‘Introduction’ (when it lacks validity in the 21st century) and one suspects this he did knowingly.

There will always be some fathers who pose a problem and therefore a blanket endorsement, i.e. unhesitatingly, is never possible if cast iron guarantees are being sort – but then the same can be said of mothers, can we unhesitatingly say they always make the best carers ? One only has to look at Fig 2 to realise what an inconsequential point Spruijt is trying to make.

Despite citing Amato & Rezac (1994) and Lamb (1997), who are positive about fathers and the role of the father in the development of children, Spruijt still remains opposed to greater participation by fathers.

8. Inviting Retaliation

Spruijt does make some positive remarks and helpful contributions to our understanding of children of divorce. For instance, he highlights children’s behaviour as being just as influential on parent’s behaviour as much as parent’s behaviour affecting children’s behaviour (something too often overlooked).

He also concedes that there is so little longitudinal research on the subject of frequency of contact after a divorce that it is impossible to predict the validity of results so far available (in other words, the data he presents could be typical or very atypical).

Wearing his academic hat he prefers to stand detached and detail factors such as internalising and externalising the problems of youngsters. He is happy to correlate between the negative and the positive factors and link them to internalised and externalised problems. Perhaps this is how he can cope with the destruction his handling of the subject causes allowing him to leave his psyche as a man untouched.

Few of us have that luxury; we identify our humanity with the suffering of children, with kith and kin and the well being of society.

Were we to cause untold misery, most of us know from lesser experiences that we would have to live with that burden on our consciences forever.

Externalising behaviour is the term given to aggressive or delinquent behaviour, and internalising behaviour is usually defined as symptoms of withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.

Later in this article we will discuss some of Dunn’s findings with regard internalised and externalised problems but for the moment we will focus on Spuijt’s paper.

His sample consisted of 164 young people all drawn from divorced parents. The results showed no significant correlations between frequency of contact with the non-resident father and internalising and externalising problems of youngsters. However, there was some indication that low levels of contact were negatively correlated to externalising problems.

In all probably, low levels of contact is more connected with parental conflict and uncertainty about time and place of visitation. Increasing frequency of contact with the non-resident father over time seems to correlate slightly to diminishing internalised problems.

For many of us it is not good enough to shrug off problems and difficulties by hiding behind platitudes and throw-away remarks such as, “Probably little contact is connected with parental conflict and uncertainty about time and place of visitation.”

One of the most researched topics has to be the correlation between children’s well-being (defined by adults) and the frequency of contact with their non-resident father. However, nearly every study looks at only one time period and assumes that parental factors impact on  children – never the more interesting point of how child factors impact on parental attitudes/behaviour (see also Rational Choice Theory).

Children’s ability to internalise and externalise problems created by one (or both) parents will also affect visitation frequency because it will link directly to parental behaviour. The innate characteristics of some children make for an easier transition after divorce than for other children who are more deeply affected – but no one knows why.

It is in everyone s interests that empirical tests are conducted to map the bi-directional influences between parents and their adolescent children – a course of action emphasized by Rueter and Conger (1998).

To study such effects, it is imperative to use longitudinal data. However, there has been an insufficient number of longitudinal research to give a clear picture on the frequency of contact after a divorce. Longitudinal research is necessary to answer the question which comes first, frequency of contact or child problems. At present all we can say with certainty is that the data on ‘outomes’ is the most clear cut in favour of fathers remaining engaged with families.

The problem when contact is limited is that its value increases dramatically and parental conflict will erupt for that finite resource. For parents, certainty of “time and place” is vital.

Limiting contact will not decrease hostilities but stoke up the embers. Interrupting time and place facilities of a precious resource is to invite retaliation.

The attack on Pearl Harbour, in Dec 1941, was precipitated by the American refusal to supply oil to a nation that had no minerals or natural resources of its own. Today, 2009, we see Europe devising strategies to cope with the possibility of Russia again shutting off the gas pipelines that supply the EU’s heating.

In the context of father-child contact, the obvious answer is to increase the amount of time fathers have to visit. The opposite scenario, that is of limiting contact to a few hours per week, hardly makes the special arrangements have to be made, worthwhile and it is not surprising that across the world contact visits by fathers taper off after a period of time. [15]

9. What Dead beat dads ?

Jonathan Bradshaw’s team at the University of York found that many parents (over 90% were fathers), often on the advice of their solicitors, gave up the unequal struggle of seeing their children or keeping in contact with them. British Government figures confirm the fact that after divorce or separation around 40% of children lose all contact with their fathers after a few years.

  • Bradshaw and Miller, in their 1991 study of lone parents, found that 35% of non-residential (most of whom were fathers) did not maintain contact with their children following divorce.
  • Wicks (1991), estimated that some 750,000 children in England and Wales had lost contact with their fathers. [since then, more divorces have increased that figure – Ed].

Such statistics are viewed as a). unacceptable by politicians and policymakers and b). as undesirable by health and social work practitioners – yet nothing is done to rectify the situation.

Instead, fathers are blamed and labelled as ‘Drop-out dads’ when in truth they are “Pushed out dads.” Fathers cannot be blamed for maladjusted and delinquent children that result especially when it is the professionals, such as Spruijt, that think fathers should have little or no contact with their children.

Shared parenting, with its emphasis on co-parenting, eliminates fatherlessness and the trend toward maladjusted and delinquent children is sharply reduced.

It is an embarrassment to concede that in most British families, fathers come to occupy a secondary position to mothers after divorce, and in some cases seem to occupy no position at all – most particularly so after divorce. One suspects this is increasingly true of the rest of Europe.

At this point we touch again the world of semantics. If highly valued contact time is de-limited, i.e. less restricted, it does not become worth less or valueless. On the contrary, it is still valuable and precious – some might say priceless. On that basis, a lasting deal between parents can be struck. By the mother giving more time to the father, the father is less likely to be stressed when she suddenly cancels a scheduled contact visit and more compliant to accept a new time and date. For the mother the benefits are that she has a more elastic environment within which to work and more freedom to prioritise aspects of her own life and widen her own horizons.

10. Power Struggle

Reference has already been made with regard Pearl Harbor but we can use other geo-political analogies. When the Soviets divorced their former Allies in 1946 and decided in 1948 to blockade Berlin, they believed they had the whip hand.

Stalin calculated he could get away with a blockade by using his trump card of shutting down all land communications to West Berlin. This was his veto – he would be the ‘keeper of the gate’. This should have left the Allies powerless and more amenable to his diktats. But his move was itself trumped by the Berlin Airlift.

The ability to neutralise power play by a belligerent parent (i.e. a Stalin) is not available in the family courts and without countervailing force or sanctions the inevitable happens.

‘Gatekeeping’, the American term for mothers who hold the veto over whether their child sees its father, precipitates unpleasant confrontation and can triggers unwanted actions and or events. Reinforcing such a regime perpetuates the very dangers that feminists are fond of exaggerating (‘Father and Child Reunion’ by Warren Farrell). The growth of this tactic seems to indicate a willingness on behalf of some not to seek solutions and not to give up control of this instrument of sanction over men.

Feminist policy makers (and there are now many in Whitehall according to Melanie Phillips), are not interested in any alternative where the circumstances surrounding a high conflict family can be lessened and the negative affects constrained – politically it helps them not at all.

Helping both parents so that they can begin to live in harmony by lessening the cause of the friction are not targets on their radar screens.

The presumption is always that the violence and conflict emanates from fathers and never mothers – that invocation is never allowed to be challenged. However, across the civilised world child abuse figures point the accusative finger directly at mothers, e.g. Victoria Climbie (see, for instance, Western Australian child abuse figures at Appendix 5).

“Figures from the Department for Child Protection, obtained by The Sunday Times, show the number of mothers believed responsible for “substantiated maltreatment” has risen from 312 to 427.

In the same period – 2005-06 to 2007-08 – the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155.

A breakdown of all family-based child abuse shows and increase from 960 to 1,505 last year.” [16]

Where non-resident father experience hostility or obstacles trying to secure contact with their children it is not surprising that many should lose interest over time. The personal hurt caused by being thwarted time and again from seeing their children in a tranquil, soothing and satisfying environment leads many fathers to give up, hoping for better prospects once their children are over 18 years old (see also the earlier reference in  ‘What Dead beat dads ?’ to ‘the unequal struggle’).

11. Teenage Years

In another regard Spruijt’s review of contact is useful as it covers the procession into the teenage years and into the early twenties. Helpfully he provides a series of tables and shown below (Fig 3) is a table relating to the contact frequency between father and child – albeit limited to a small sample size of 164 children.

Compared to other researchers (including the UK government’s estimate of 40%), his figures seem underestimates both in terms of children who see their fathers only occasionally (T3, 13%) and fathers not able to see their children at all (T3, 32%).

Table 3.  The frequency of contact at various points in time: (%age).
T0 T1 T2 T3
% % % %
None at all 27 38 35 32
Less than 4 times a year 08 10 13 13
5 – 11 times a year 06 09 10 15
12 – 23 times a year 13 15 13 14
24 – 47 times a year 22 15 12 13
more than 47 times a year 24 13 17 13
Total 100 100 100 100
131 131 148 164
Source: AP Spruijt, Uni. Utrecht 2002. (n=164, 65 boys and 99 girls all lived with mother).

Spruijt measured how frequently a child saw its father immediately after divorce – this he calls ‘T0’ – which on average was 10 years before the next measurement point of ‘T1.’

In calendar years, T1 is equivalent to 1991, T2 is 1994 and T3 is 1997 (T0 must be circa 1981-83).  We are able to see from Fig 3 that the proportion of children that fell into the category where they had no contact at all with their fathers, begins at 27% (T0) in the immediate post divorce era, and then rose only to fall, e.g. 38%, 35%, and then 32% in T3.

The reciprocal of this is that approx. 66% of fathers, and therefore children, saw one another on a more frequent basis.

The category at the other extreme, i.e. “more than 47 times a year” sound generous in parental time but in calendar terms this works out to less than once a week. The total absence of any category for father visits in the 100 or 150 times per annum category creates a pregnant moment and one that we must hope occurred to Spruijt.

The numbers do the talking. A quarter of all fathers never get to see their children (T0, 27%) and a second 25% get to see them once a week (T0, 24%). A huge 50% of fathers don’t get to see their children on a more regular basis than once a fortnight.

The American, Valarie King (University of Pennsylvania, 1994), reported that in a random survey of more than 1,500 American children (a better sample size), she arrived at a ‘no contact’ percentage of 25%. Her conclusion was that a substantial number of the children of divorce lost contact with the non-resident parent – on average about 25% (NB the institutional/conventional resistance to putting the figure higher has eased since 1994).

Disappointment follows disappointment and personal hurt kicks in after a time. Those fathers awarded most contact, i.e. 24 – 47 times a year and more than 47 times a year, witness a halving of their contact time (from T0 to T3). Is this gatekeeping by mothers or frustration by fathers ? Spruijt falls silent on this crucial point.

Spruijt could have made a significant contribution by determining whether or not it was due to a sense of futility among fathers.

The 164 boys and girls in the Utrecht survey are reported as living with their single mother. The data does not measure how frequently a child sees its mother when the father is granted custody after divorce and thus an opportunity to compare and contrast the benefits per se, and of contact by mothers in particular, is missed.

Is this because custody is heavily biased towards mothers making comparison with fathers technically very difficult ?

Spruijt asks the same significant question posed by all academics who are perhaps too many places removed to realise what happens in real life. Why, he asks, have these children lost contact with their non-resident parent ?

He believes that the degree of contact seems to depend both on the family composition to which the child belongs to (arrival of step-parent and step-siblings) and on the marital status of the non-resident father.

He finds that 66% of children had regular contact with single non-resident fathers but when non-resident fathers re-married this fell to only 29%. This should not be surprising to Spruijt but it appears to be.

What Spruijt does not measure in his ‘family composition’ is the effects of the original social class and economic income bracket which may be very influential and which may be very diverse at either end of the spectrum. Omitted too is any cultural or ethnic minority dimension.

The need to earn a living and provide adequately for his second family yet still remit monies to his first family soaks up any time and energy he would have to himself to visit the children his first family. In this and others regards Spuijt appears to be amazingly unworldly.

Restricting ourselves to purely socio-economic factors, the north-south divide seen in custody awards in Britain underlines the strong cultural factors linking contact with frequency when compared with the socio-economic status of the original family composition (see “Twenty Wasted Years – Joint Custody is Not New or Untestedhttp://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/5/

Fig 4. Marriages, United Kingdom, 1951 – 2006 (ONS)

We might speculate that as children progress into their teenage years and early twenties they might seek out their father to reassure themselves as to their identity, lineage and their heritage. But it is also possible that 25% – 30% of divorced fathers re-partner and have a second family that preoccupies their time.

Forty years ago it was planned that the Divorce Reform Act 1969 would see re-marriages equalling ‘first time’ marriages and then overtake it as divorce became ever-easier and cheaper. But as the trend lines show in Fig 4, this never happened; first time marriages nose dived and re-marriages have become stuck on a plateau since 1973.

We might also speculate that those children in Spruijt’s sample who do not see their fathers at all, or rarely, might have had fathers re-engaging with society and seeking the company of women, they might even have re-partnered and formed re-blended families.

This could explain why, at least for some numbers, i.e. in the less than 4 times a year and the 5 – 11 times a year categories, there is an actual increase, a doubling, in frequency of contact over the years (from T0 to T3) – but again Spruijt falls silent at this most influential of junctures.

Fig 5. Stability of the internalising and externalising problems. (Table 3)
T1 > T2 > T3
Stress and depression: .36 .47
Suicidal thoughts: .39 .43
Poor mental health: .19 .39
Delinquency: 36 .34
Risky habits: 53 .41
Unemployment: ns .19
Source:  Spruijt 2002

Fig 5, above, replicates Spruijt’s Table 3 where he analyses the risks faced by children of divorce but who have some kind of contact with their father. At one point he concludes that children receive both no benefit from contact with their father but elsewhere that they do benefit from said contact.

This, it would appear, is not an uncommon situation. Spruijt refers to the work of Amato & Rezac (1994) who also found contradictory results in the USA concerning contact with the non-resident parent and Spruijt, to his credit, mentions other examples of contradictory findings regarding the benefit of contact.

However, Amato and Rezac (1994) examined the benefit of contact only in relation to where there were degrees of ‘conflict’. Not unnaturally they found that if there were relatively few incidents of conflicts between the parents, the contact was positive for the child.

This is so obvious one wonders why it has to be stated. The answer to that rhetorical question is that it is a ‘means to an end’; by understating the conflict element it brings the reader one step closer to the view that all contact is bad.

It is not revealed to the reader that Amato and Rezac analyzed only 33 studies regarding the question whether there is a positive relation between the well-being of children of divorce and access to the non-resident parent” (see the much more recent meta-analysis of Bauserman).

Once the scene is set, Sprujt is free to build on the erroneous impression by quoting, for example, King (1994 & 1999). According to Spruijt, King says in her 1994 study “clearly comes to the conclusion that there was not any significant correlation between visiting arrangements and the (numerous) characteristics of the children studied.”

However, were we to remove the small number of families ‘in conflict’ from the sample, would the ‘insignificant correlation’ relating to contact become significant ?

Valarie King’s dissertation of 1993 (Consequences of Outside Father Involvement for Children’s Well-Being), was written against a backdrop of increasingly common “rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing non-resident paternal parenting…..” [17]

The fact that in 1993 it was possible to write, “Recent public sentiment has increasingly called for the involvement of these fathers in their children’s lives under the assumption that such involvement will have positive benefits for children” would indicate that the public thought fathers were not getting a fair deal and ere not seeing enough of their children.

There is also the possibility to be weighed that the sample is skewed by the number of fathers who are out-of-wedlock fathers as well as being non resident fathers.

Perhaps Spruijt hopes no one will notice that in citing King’s 1999 study he actually reinforces the counter-case just outlined. King’s 1999 study concluded that ‘this particular correlation depended on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement’, thereby pointing directly not to compliance and co-operation and benefits to the child but capriciousness and unspoken conflict in the sample. Quote;

  • If mothers are happy with the visiting arrangements between child and father, the children will be all right. Similarly, Amato and Gilbreth (1999) did not find any correlation between the frequency of contact and the well-being of the children.
  • In 1999 King, together with Heard, specified this conclusion by stating that this particular correlation depended on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement.

Spruijt tries to downgrade the importance of a father in a child’s life by remarking that “the central idea runs.” The insinuation is that society is meant to have wrongly and idly arrived at believing that, “contact is always beneficial for the development of children. In a word: contact is essential.” [18]

12. Risky Behaviour

If we turn to more up-to-date studies, e.g. News-Medical in Child Health News (25 May 2004), we find that the ago old Gold Standard is till valid (“Children’s behaviour is linked to contact with real father” http://www.news-medical.net/?id=_87). See Appendix 6.

An obvious omission is the complication of sexual development in girls caused by father absence. Spruijt seemingly focuses on boys and their ‘risky habits’ but fatherlessness affects girls too, especially their mental health (see “Does early father absence place daughters at special risk for early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy ?). [19]

Results: “….. Among children experiencing low father involvement in infancy, behavioral, autonomic, and adrenocortical reactivity became risk factors for later mental health symptoms. The highest symptom severity scores were found for children with high autonomic reactivity that, as infants, had experienced low father involvement and mothers with symptoms of depression.”

In plainer English it also reports that;

“…father-absence continued to affect the rate of early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy exhibited by daughters. In addition rates were highest for early father-absence, in the middle for late father-absence, and lowest for father-present adolescent girls.”

We have to travel back through time, to 1999, to find another apparently credible report that gives some support to Spruijt. In 1999, the State of Washington hired Dr. Diane Lye to prepare a report to advise on how the Parenting Act 1988 (seen as a major revision of the state’s custody laws) was working in practice. Overall it was favourable to parenting plans, joint custody etc, however, Diane Lye also included ancillary matters such as violence, abuse and conflict and levels of child support. The resulting Lye Report has inevitably been seized upon by supporters and critics alike as it contains ammunition for both. [20]

For instance, Joan Kelly, an Executive Director of the Northern California Mediation Center, is cited almost on the last page (pp 4-26 & 4-27), as stating:

“Dual residence arrangements appeared to be more harmful when parents were in high discord than were sole residence arrangements. In contrast, adolescents in dual residence arrangements where there was cooperative communication between parents benefited more than did adolescents in sole residence arrangements.” (Pages 34-35 in “Current Research on Children’s Post-divorce Adjustment”).

Again, this is not really the point. Whatever the residential arrangements, e.g. sole mother custody, discord will have harmful effects. What Joan Kelly thinks is atypical and runs contrary to the Lye Report. Its conclusions, while generally favorable to a regime that more willingly embraces fathers, contain questioning citations (along the lines of Joan Kelly), from other experts and a sample of these can be found in Appendix 7.

The real flaw in the Washington State’s Parenting Act 1987, is that whatever the wording of reform legislation, retaining a maternal ‘veto’ effectively torpedoes any progress for fathers and children.

Spruijt, in a paper co-authored with DeGoede in 1997, wrote;

“Numerous studies have shown that youngsters growing up in families with a happy, harmonious parental marriage experience fewer problems and a higher well-being than those from divorced or martially distressed families.”

But he seems temperamentally trapped and unable to concede that a). youngsters growing up in slightly disharmonious married families are just as happy and b). that shared parenting offers children of divorce the best chance of recapturing something close to those former days of stability.

His analysis lacks a certain credibility simply because he refuses to acknowledge the implications of his own work. He cannot make the small step from his preferred model to that of joint custody / shared parenting / co-parenting that his research demands.

13. Social Policy and Suicides

Too many academic papers have a tendency to reduce raw data into confusing bi-variances, co-variances, statistical probabilities, degrees of standard deviation etc (e.g. Fig 3 & 5). It is a situation not retrieved by explanatory commentaries which fail to enlighten the reader.

Is it only vanity or a dread of looking unprofessional that stops assessments being understood by the common man ?

What, for instance, would an average man understand by the numbers ‘greater than 0.39’ associated with Spruijt’s “Suicidal thoughts” category ?

If he were to write that 5 years after the date of the divorce 45% of children aged 17 – 19, had, at one time or another in that period, the occasional (or recurring ?) suicidal thought, it would carry more meaning/weight.

Those not from a Sociology background tend not to obfuscate and approach the problem of suicide intent on making the numbers meaningful.

They see an increase in male suicides over the past 40 year among the young, i.e., aged 18 to 28 and say 29 to 40. At the same time there is an almost corresponding decrease in successful suicides among females in the same age groupings (females have always preferred attempted/para suicides).

Among the non-sociological fraternity it is the belief that social policy dictates to a large extent the suicide levels. To believe that fatherly involvement is a prime cause rather than social policy, is to confuse problem with symptom.

Fatherly involvement can have, in individual cases, an acute effect but it more often attenuates the impact of poorly thought out social policy. The British prison service has found that most young male who commit suicide upon their admission into prison are from fatherless families. Very few, if any, young men with an actively engaged father commit suicide in prison (see 13.Sample Size below).

The efficacy of any post-divorce custody model should take into account such phenomenon if the child’s best interests are to be served. This approach provides a far firmer and more pragmatic base on which to speculate about how suicidal thoughts overwhelm.

Somewhat ambiguously “being unemployed” is described by Spruijt as “obviously the least stable problem.” Does he mean by this that the least important factor is being unemployed or, that it will strike at random within the group, or that being unemployed is the most volatile factor and therefore the least stable ?

Being unemployed is surely the most influential underlying risk factor for young men affecting as it does their self-worth and helping to ensure “risky habits” of smoking, drugs, drinking, delinquency, and suicide. Being unemployed is very depressing – anyone who has been unemployed will know the toll that being continually ‘rejected’ takes from one’s self confidence.

Therefore, asking a young person in questionnaires is sometimes not a good idea for they are perhaps less well equipped than others to answer why they behave the way they do.

14. Sample Size

Spruijt’s paper is not very clear as to the sample size used for the various measurements.

The foundation of the Spruijt paper and its results shown in the tables above, appear to be based on a 1991 questionnaire and face-to-face interviews involving some 3,000 youngsters aged between 12 and 24 years old but the citation is for 164 participants.

It appears to be a subset. i.e. the youngest group aged 12 – 15, which were continuously ‘refreshed’ (re-examined ?), meaning that by 1994 the oldest were 27 (T2) and aged 30 in 1997 (T3).

In 1997 the number of young people aged between 12 to 30 years old who participated in the investigation totalled 1,781. Spruijt then adds;

“For the benefit of the analyses in this article” [he selected a group] “of children of divorced parents who had participated three times”, [and who are]  “living with their mothers or had lived with them before leaving home.”

It is this selection that causes the reviewer some unease. Was it a selection to mimic a random sample or was it a selection that contained inherent biases ? Was it impossible to find a sample, albeit smaller in size, of children from father only households to compare and contrast the validity of his subsequent findings ?

Whatever the answer to these key questions we are told that the group consisted of 65 boys and 99 girls (giving a sample size of 164, or n=164).

The children are said to come from 131 households where the parent was divorced but over a three year period a further 33 divorced households are added which would, a first sight, indicate an instability in the sample size.

Spruijt’s methodology has another unsettling aspect as he records that the average age was 17.9 years (12 – 24 years). No median age is given. Characteristics are so diverse in this age range (12 – 24 years), and the stages of ‘self’ so numerous that aggregating them would seem to defeat reaching any clear cut conclusion. It would have been far better if he could have arranged for a 3 or 4 year  interval, a discrete age range of, say,. 12 – 15, 15 – 18 etc, and for ‘snapshots’ to have been taken then.

Finessing the existing data and hypothesising from a sample of 164 is an academic exercise in comparison with the very pragmatic matter of judging cohorts in their thousands and/or of outcomes for an equally large number, or for a generation.

When the majority of young men (under 21) who commit suicide in jail within the first 3 weeks are found to come from fatherless families then that is something that is concrete and can be discussed. (ref. Prison Service Perrie Lectures, Prison Officer Training College, Rugby, UK, June 2001).

Knowing that fact enables relevant studies to be made of the degrees and intensity of paternal and maternal bonding (Spruijt’s reference to Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979), and whether one or both were ‘authoritative parents.’

Looking for answers in a sample of 164 might be useful, but compared with other options is surely looking down the wrong end of a telescope.

In an earlier 2001 paper co-authored with De Goede, Spruijt states that;

“Father bonding is an important protective factor against the negative effects of a divorce, but only if this father bond was established long before the divorce.”

Yet in the book “The role of the father in child development” by Michael E. Lamb, this conclusion about a long established bond is not altogether validated. Nonetheless, Spruijt cites Lamb as a source for part of his argument for the low relevance of fathers and contact in the paper currently here under review.

A long established bond would imply ‘quantity’ of time invested in father-child relationships rather than quality – or is this a nefarious and unrelated connection ?

Measuring the father bond in the Caribbean cultures (Lamb, page 78) shows a low amount of time invested by fathers in child relationships, yet Spruijt does not speak of quality or quantity, nor does he reveal the ethnic or cultural mix of his Utrecht sample (something that Lamb’s 500 page book does explore). [21]

15. Bonding

Bearing in mind the rich maritime trading traditions of both Holland and Britain, Spruijt falls silent again on the compensatory capacity of mothers when fathers are away at sea for months at a time. What quantity of time or intensity of bonding would Spruijt put on such family relationships ? Why one wonders is all the emphasis for bonding placed on fathers all the time when mothers have a pivotal role in making paternal bonding happen and making it count.

Is any consideration given to the results if mothers employ ‘spoiling tactics’ both before divorce, as the adult relationship dwindles and during divorce when battle is joined ?

One can gauge how much of a deterrent this can be when Spruijt cites King & Heard (1999), who found that if the mother was happy with the visiting arrangements between the child and the father, the children will be all right (cited above).

In short, any conclusion about particular correlations Spruijt might make depends wholly on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement (again, ego and the ability to veto coming to the fore).

Conversely, but still underlining the point, Amato & Gilbreth (1999) did not find any correlation between the frequency of contact and the well-being of the children. This leads one to suspect a positive outcomes for contact in governed more by mothers than fathers.

How influential a ‘fortress mother’ can be and how she can rule the lives of others can be measured by inquiring into the lives of other women, namely ‘second wives’. Their lives are, or can be, made utterly miserable by the antics of the parent-with-care, i.e. the mother in the first family. Even the standard of living a second wife can expect is governed by and is always at the mercy of the whims of the parent-with-care.

The common assumption Spruijt tries to undermine in his 2002 paper is one dating from the 1970s which believes children thrive best when contact with both parents is possible. In the following decades, particularly in the 1990s, serious efforts were mounted to overturn this view principally because of the financial gains involved and the political advantage it would benefit those proposing it.

In “Father-child relations Mother-child relations, and Offspring Psychological Wellbeing in Early Adulthood” (1994), P. Amato points out the closer children are to their father, regardless of the quality of the mother-child relationship, the happier, more satisfied, and less distressed they are.

This must surely put in doubt the assumption in many circles that making the mother happy is key and takes primacy over the child’s happiness.

16. The Well-Being of Children

Contrary to Spruijt’s interpretation of the available literature there is more than ample evidence to indicate that the benefit of fatherly contact is not a 50/50 question i.e. that for every gain there is a loss, far from it.

Heide Ottosen makes a telling point when in “Contact and the well-being of children”, (2004, supra, p. 28) she states that this type of research (father-contact-child) is more prominent in countries such as the US where family policy discussions have a more moralistic character than in Scandinavia” (and presumably Spruijt has access to every US university archive).

Another dimension is that America is much more openly religious than Europe, which is far more secular in many of its institutions. Funding for a secular view of divorce and custody will probably more found more easily and viewed as more objective than one stemming from a religious base. Yet ‘secularism’ can be as much a religion, and as dogmatic, as Christianity or Islam.

Stephen Gilmore (2006), and J. Dunn (2004) fail to share Spruijt’s opinion. Gilmore has assessed legal decision-making with a view to the evidence regarding contact and shared residence, and J. Dunn (2004) has researched children’s perspectives about their non- resident father. They believe that the volume and frequency of contact is significant and that the quality of contact is also significant.

Mothers who are not mature and instead allow their bitterness to colour their attitudes can adversely affect both the quantity and the quality of contact. Thinking they are hurting their former partner they are not responsible enough to realise they damage only the children.

It isn’t just that Lamb’s handbook (about which Spruijt appears to place great store) asserts; “… the role of the father in the development of children … clearly shows that in two-parent families both the mother and the father play an important role in the healthy development of their children”, it is that the book shows how pivotal all fathers are for all children and what a disaster has resulted from their marginalisation.

For instance on page 121 the chapter begins:

“Among social sciences and public policy makers in Europe there is increasing awareness of the complex and contradictory nature of contemporary fatherhood.

Page 196 echoes these sympathetic themes and on page 307 the section begins:

“Fathers are major but often unrecognised members of the family who play a central role in children’s socialisation.

Other contributions to Lamb’s manual are worth listing briefly:

  • In a study of men in Guyana it was found that 61% of fathers played with their children, 40% took them for walks and outings etc. 62% talked to children about things important to them, and 42% helped with homework ‘often’ or ‘very often.’ (Lamb, pp 78-79).
  • Unexpectedly, at least from a European perspective, fathers from low income families actually spent more time with their children’s activities than men from higher income brackets (Brown et al 1994 and 1997).
  • In addition it was found when the child was still an infant, approx. 72% of fathers reported changing nappies, 64% got up in the middle of the night, and 70% prepared baby food. The levels of paternal involvement are remarkable and would not be out of place in American or European homes.

According to Lamb’s book, debate in Europe is polarised around two camps; one where men are in crisis and unable to provide the cash through work necessary to support a family (Hobson 2002), and in the alternative, where men are no longer the austere stereotypical patriarchs of old but have instead evolved into caring, nurturing beings (Bjornberg, 1992).

This is a severe if not overly simplistic view of what is a complex and fluid situation. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two and is a mixture of the two.

However, those extreme views are only supposition, for Lamb makes it crystal clear (on p 121) that in Europe the study of fathers has been ignored and even the host of official EU statistics measure women and not men (a criticism that can be justifiably leveled at Britain’s ONS).

Fatherhood, Lamb believes, is in transition all across Europe, and the EU has no idea of the changes underway in the social landscape –instead it is naval gazing at trade negotiations and multi-ethnic diversity.

Compared with the level of fatherly involvement seen among Caribbean fathers, the European social backdrop is a lunar landscape and is inadequate. What agencies are at work that actively separate children from their fathers ?

Those proposing sole mother custody and by implication limiting father contact to only a few hours per week or per fortnight, can no longer deny that it is children who will suffer most. How can Saturday afternoons with Dad make up this sort of deficit ?

The conclusion Spruijt reaches is that children would do better “if parents learned to communicate better with one another.”

This is where he and pro-fathers rights groups begin to share common ground because it is so obvious (though one suspects he sees fathers as the culprits for any lack of communication).

What, one must ask, is more guaranteed to antagonise the situation and more designed to create obstacles to the desired state of better communications than sole mother custody, vesting as it does the veto power of one parent over the other ?

This is blatant anathema to better relationships that it is surprising those opposing greater parental involvement have not yet identified it.

Pro-fathers rights groups would readily agree that it would be better if parents were able to communicate with one another but this simplistic view overlooks the tragedy concealed within. The parent with whom the child resides after the divorce and who frustrates the other parent’s contact (i.e., the father) usually has not unpacked their emotional baggage. This often consisting of raw, unprocessed emotions linked to the separation and which can lead to prolonged vindictiveness.

Despite the very emphatic nature of a legal separation – and its hard, factual reality – subconsciously it is possible that in the mind of one parent there has been no relational ‘Goodbye’ to the former marital estate.

17. Parental Alienation (PAS)

Spruijt and pro-fathers rights groups are agreed on the existence of parental alienation (sometimes referred to as PAS) and the damaging effect it can have on the child.

Disharmony and alienation can be deliberately orchestrated to benefit one of the parents. To the observer this can be seen as hostile acts or even belligerence by one or both parents. At its most efficient parental alienation is wholly interchangeability with hostility and violence – and because PAS is child-based, children are drawn into its creation and become its actors.

In a paper published in 2008 by E. Kaplan, of the Faculty of Social Sciences (University of Utrecht), states how boys and girls are sucked in and suffer. [22]

“As conflicts between parents leads to loyalty problems with the child, with more girls suffer from conflicts for the separation as opposed to boys.”

Kaplin then measures the phenomenon and finds that a gender difference exists:

• 72% of fathers believe PAS is a problem.

• But only 36% of mothers believe PAS is a problem.

• According to the father’s PAS is a severe problem in 21% of cases.

• But according mothers PAS is only a severe problem in 10% of cases.

These 2008 findings of higher percentages of PAS contradicted earlier findings regarding PAS undertaken by Ed Spruijt and his colleagues in 2005. He had concluded that although PAS did occur in the Netherlands, it was hardly ever found to be the severe form.

In Britain, Sturge and Glaser were dismissive of PAS as it was not a DSM recognised syndrome – an arcane point – but conceded that the processes of alienation were real in some cases. By contrast,

‘Battered Woman Syndrome’ is equally not recognised by the DSM as a syndrome but is nonetheless referred to as such in legal circles.

The problem with interchangeability is the slide into aggregation and the resulting obfuscation. We see this everyday in statistics that lump together cohabiting couples with married couples into one category.

Spruijt is not alone in confusing high conflict families with families where PAS can be found. Nor is he alone in wrongly for appearing to group conflict and PAS with actual physical violence (see Appendix 8).

In respect to divorces, before 1998 the reported conflict level was 8.4 and had only increased to 11.0 -13.2 after 1998 (on a 0 – 20 scale). Considering the increased marginalisation of fathers and the amount of anti-father legislation this is not a significant increase. It has to be pigeon holed as ‘not significant’ because it is not specific to one type of action or category (i.e. it could be an amalgam of causes).

Additionally, the fact that the legal construction of ‘joint parental authority’ may in itself bring about higher conflict levels was a conclusion of a Danish Commission which reported on this topic in 2006 (‘joint parental authority’ and its equivalent has spread to nearly all the EU nations by 2009).

The Danish Commission found that in Sweden “the conflict levels did not decrease with the passing of time” which would seem to point to a systems-induced failure rather than a human one. [23]

Where the model of divorce and/or custody has changed, e.g. some states in America, levels of conflict have also altered.

18. Kinderbescherming

Unlike the United Nations, the Kinderbescherming is not dependent on the Armed Forces of its member nations and can exercise options to give both parties a level playing field – but chooses not to.

It does not rely on the individual clients to sort out problems but relies on individuals inside the Kinderbescherming to provide solutions and push things forward. Society has to hope that individuals inside the Kinderbescherming are pushing in the right direction but who is there to check and correct the Kinderbescherming ?

The Kinderbescherming can be pro-active if it chooses to be – it may not have wholly unlimited options but its powers are not curtailed as they are for the United Nations.

Spruijt also believes that ‘counseling, parenting plans and mandatory mediation for divorcing parents could be helpful to diminish the continuous conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce’ and who could not agree with that ?

Pro-fathers rights groups see it as a positive step.

The only drawback is that undertaking such counseling, parenting plans and mediation when a veto is held by one party, negates any possibility of meaningful and equitable negotiation leading to mutually beneficial outcomes (comparable to the Czechoslovakia  being forced to surrender the Sudetenland and its border defences in 1938 to Germany prior to annexation).

If Spruijt truly wants to diminish the conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce then changes are needed to the custody model now in operation.

Principally there must be an end to the ‘casino’ approach to custody where the punter (the father) is tempted by the prospect of justice (winning) but where the house (the court) ensures it always wins.

Take the gambling dimension out of custody awards; eliminate the prospect of the court awarding 95% of custody cases to sole mothers and both children and fathers will benefit.

The present level of conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce will measurably subside if those simple stapes are taken.

In other areas Spruijt holds views that are compatible with fathers groups; he recognises the dangers of parental alienation (PAS, Gardner, 1998) as a potential threat for the healthy development of children.

Spruijt’s solution for this and “overt and continuous quarrels between ex-spouses”, is for the parent, i.e. implicitly the father, to learn to control their conflicts.

This Spruijt believes will provide a framework upon which contact (which he says is essential) would be conditional and granted only after compliance, i.e. the veto again.

Spruijt is caught in a two-way bind of is own making. Either it is good for children to see their father, or it is not.

Either the child’s best interest (CBI) comes first, or it does not; in which case (i.e. where it does not) then the pretence is laid bare – it is the mother’s best interest that comes first.

It is mothers who win out and the CBI mantra is merely codified shorthand for mother’s best interest. (see also Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Pres. of the Family Division, ‘The Effects and the Implications for Contact’, Nov 2001, Regents Park lecture, prioritising mother custody).

Thus, the champion of women – the radical-feminists – reduces all women to an infantile status last seen in the 19th century. Women cannot function in society without being given custody of any children. The discomfiture and odium of being a divorced women and not having been granted custody of any resulting children is too embarrassing to bear.

Even where they are clearly unfit to be mothers they are given custody – an assertion made fact by analysis of the child abuse and neglect figures.

Women under Spruijt’s law are adults in name only; they are incapable of making binding contracts or being held responsible for decisions that do not completely suit or favour them. Has he not considered the child abuse and neglect figures and is not his first duty to children rather than parents ?

If, as is implied, contact is semi-dependent on the quality of contact and the investment  fathers are prepared to make should we not also measure the quality of mothers and their mothering abilities ?

If the question of the role of mothers is not up for discussion why should we discuss whether fathers should be assessed as to suitability ?

Why are fathers always considered the variable factor and not the mother ?

Instead of looking at the high or low frequency of fatherly contact why are we not measuring the suitability of women in the sample; the suitability of women who divorce and those that prefer to be unmarried mothers ?

Is there something inherently wrong in their psychological make-up that marks them out to be poor wives and inadequate mothers ?

To borrow an adage from the late Prof. Jacob Bronowski, “Only by asking the impertinent question can we arrive at the pertinent answer”.

END

Appendix 1

“Are men really necessary ? Good question”

The Times (UK) Nov 25th 2007

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marrin/article2937002.ece

(An article prompted by government moves to make IVF available to women without the

need for a husband or for the child to have a father)

Quote: “.. For nearly 30 years we have seen a subtle but increasing onslaught against masculinity. From the female separatism of the 1970s, when I went to feminist meetings that were open to “women and girl children only”, to the feminisation of the classroom and exams and the widespread use of the word testosterone as a term of blame and abuse, men and boys have come to understand that they are increasingly seen as hairy, smelly, lazy, disruptive, violent and generally rather a bad thing.

Women regularly blame their difficulties on men and expect them to make reparation. They increasingly tolerate men only if they take on domestic chores and childcare. Meanwhile, women are beginning to feel truly independent of men, at least financially. It is hardly surprising that men increasingly feel dispensable.”

“ …. As Camille Paglia once said, if civilisation had been left to women, we’d still be living in grass huts.”

“ ….. This is a moment for serious revaluation of men. The women at Cranford [a novel] managed, despite the lack of men, and so did my mother, who was widowed with four tiny children, and others like her. But it is at great cost and a great loss – and to the children, too. What we need is the rehabilitation of real masculinity, because that is something most of us do need and like.”

NB. Persistent marginalisation of men may lead them to be less inclined to fund, via their taxes, those services most valued and used mainly by women, e.g. medical treatment, pensions, housing, child subsidies.

Appendix 2

Frederick Engels

In the 1970s, the feminist movement which had encouraged change was co-opted by radicals who saw women as the prototypical oppressed class and marriage and “compulsory heterosexuality” as the mechanisms of oppression.

This stream of thought drew on Frederick Engels’ analysis of the origins of the family. In 1884 Engels had written:

“The first-class antagonism in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between men and women in monogamous marriage, and the first-class oppression with that of the female sex by the male”.

(Ref. Frederick Engels, ‘The Origin of the Family, Property and the State’. International Publishers:  1972, pp. 65-66. (http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/GENDFEM.HTM).

Appendix 3

200,000 children at risk of abuse in their own homes’

200,000 children are at risk of violence or abuse in their own home,

According to an official report that demands urgent improvements in child protection starting “at the heart of government”.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent, Daily Telegraph  13th Mar 2009

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/baby-p/4980126/Baby-P-report-200000-children-at-risk-of-abuse-in-their-own-homes.html

Instead of seeking any fundamental change in the rules and systems for social services and child protection, Lord Laming said that everyone involved in the field needs to do their jobs better.

After reviewing child protection standards in the wake of the death of Baby P in Haringey, Lord Laming said ministers, council chiefs, social work managers, NHS staff and police officers all needed to do more to safeguard vulnerable children.

His report revealed figures suggesting that of the 11 million children in England, 200,000 are living in homes where there is “known high risk case of domestic abuse or violence.”

“As many as 350,000 children have parents who have serious drug habits and 1.3 million live with parents who drink heavily, Lord Laming’s report says.”

Appendix 4

“Divorce and separation: The outcomes for children”

By Bryan Rodgers and Jan Pryor

Joseph Rowntree Foundation June 1998

“a comprehensive review of over 200 current research reports by”

http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/divorce-and-separation-outcomes-children

Right: Dr. Jan Pryor has been the inaugural Director of the Centre for the last seven years. Recently (May 2009) she handed over the reigns to Associate Professor Paul Jose as Acting Director. Jan’s new role as Chief Families Commissioner has impacted on her time and she now works part time for the Centre as a Senior Researcher.

Left: Professor Bryan Rodgers BA (hons), MA (Oxford), MSc (London), PhD (Bristol) Professor of Family Health & Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute, Primary Areas: Psychology and psychiatry, social issues & public policy. Expertise: Depression, alcohol use, family health & wellbeing, divorce, childhood adversity and mental health, gambling.

E-mail: Bryan.Rodgers@anu.edu.au Tel: +61 2 6125 0399
Room 3231, Coombs Building

Appendix 5

More reports of WA mothers mistreating children

By Nick Taylor, PerthNow, (Western Australia), 18 July 2009

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,27574,25802810-2761,00.html

The number of WA mothers reported for abusing their children has leapt in the past two years.

Figures from the Department for Child Protection, obtained by The Sunday Times, show the number of mothers believed responsible for “substantiated maltreatment” has risen from 312 to 427. In the same period – 2005-06 to 2007-08 – the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155.

A breakdown of all family-based child abuse shows and increase from 960 to 1505 last year.

Michael Woods, of the University of Western Sydney, said the data “debunked a common misconception about fathers and violence”.

Dr Woods, who is also a co-director of the university-based Men’s Information and Resource Centre said: “The figures undermine the myth that fathers are the major risk for their children’s wellbeing.

“The data is not surprising. It is in line with the international findings regarding perpetrators of child abuse.”

He said previous practices of lumping together de facto, live-in boyfriends and overnight male guests with fathers as male carers had “skewed beliefs” about who abused children.

Angela Hartwig, executive officer of the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA, said the increases were a concern, but child abuse, neglect and domestic and family violence could be reported in several ways.

“Because the woman is so often the primary care-giver she is held as being responsible for the neglect,” she said.

“This could also explain why there is such a high number of neglect cases against women, as the data only shows the first person believed responsible.

“The statistics do not show the strong correlation that where there is child abuse there is often domestic and family violence and the women may be the victim of the abuse.

“If she is a victim of domestic and family violence, a woman has very little power to change the situation.

“It is difficult for a woman to provide for children when living with an abusive partner who has total control of all decisions made, which includes controlling the finances.”

Appendix 6

Children’s behaviour is linked to contact with real father

Posted By: News-Medical in Child Health News, Tuesday, 25-May-2004

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=_87

The importance of a father figure in children’s lives has been demonstrated by a new study of families with separated parents in Bristol.

After looking at couples who had split up, researchers found there was a direct relationship between their children’s behavioural problems and the amount of contact they had with their natural father, and the quality of the relationship between father and child.

The effect was more pronounced in single parent families, particularly teenaged mothers.  In these families the children were particularly vulnerable if they had no contact with their real father.

The findings, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry were based on data collected by the Children of the 90s study based at the University of Bristol.

Professor Judy Dunn from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London, studied 162 children whose parents had separated, over two years. Of those children, 18% had no contact with their father, and 16% had contact less than once a month.  There tended to be less contact if the mothers had been relatively young when pregnant.

Researchers interviewed all 162 children (initially at an average age of eight and a half) about their relationship with their mothers, fathers and stepfathers.  The mothers were asked to report on children’s behaviour, on whether they were aggressive or delinquent (externalising behaviour) or withdrawn, anxious, or depressed (internalising).

There were fewer externalising problems according to the child’s relationship with both mother or non-resident father, and according to the extent of child-father contact and the quality of this relationship.

Internalising problems were associated with the quality of the relationship with the mother, and to infrequent or no contact with the father.

The report notes:  “Earlier studies have reported some inconsistent findings on the significance of contact.

“Our findings were unequivocal: more frequent and more regular contact (which included communication by telephone) was associated with closer more intense relationships with non-resident fathers and fewer adjustment problems in children.”

Professor Dunn notes that the amount of contact between a child and a father was related to the relationship between the parents.

She says: “This underlines the importance of parents developing a good working relationship over children’s issues and of keeping any problems in their own relationships separate from their parenting.”

Ref:-

Children’s perspectives on their relationships with their non-resident fathers: influences, outcomes and implications.  Judy Dunn, Helen Cheng, Thomas G. O’Connor, and Laura Bridges.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45:3 (2004), pp 553-566.

Appendix 7

Review of the 1999 Parenting Act Study

Short review by Diane N. Lye, Ph.D. and Mary Wechsler

http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

and

http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

More creativity and individualizing of parenting plans should be encouraged. The study concluded that too many Washington parents have “cookie cutter” parenting plans that are primarily every-other-weekend residential schedules, which does not meet the needs of all families. Dr. Lye suggested encouraging individualizing parenting plans by disseminating information about diverse residential schedules to attorneys, judges, court commissioners, guardians ad litem, court facilitators, and other professionals involved in the formulation of parenting plans.

Parenting Act Study (Washington State)

Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission

http://www.courts.wa.gov/search/index.cfm?fa=search.start_search

and

http://www.courts.wa.gov/committee/pdf/parentingplanstudy.pdf

p 4-27

“Recent studies suggest that the relationship between child adjustment and conflict is neither universal, simple, nor particularly straightforward It appears that, rather than discord per se, it is the manner in which parental conflict is expressed that may affect the children’s adjustment. High interparental discord has been found to be related to the child’s feeling caught in the middle, and this experience of feeling caught was related to adjustment. Adolescents in dual (shared) residence arrangements did not feel more caught than did adolescents in mother or father custody type arrangements. Nor was amount of visiting related to feeling caught. There was a significant effect, however, of the interaction between type of residence and the parental relationship. Dual residence arrangements appeared to be more harmful when parents were in high discord than were sole residence arrangements. In contrast, adolescents in dual residence arrangements where there was cooperative communication between parents benefited more than did adolescents in sole residence arrangements.”

(Pages 34-35 in “Current Research on Children’s Post-divorce Adjustment”)

http://www.courts.wa.gov/committee/pdf/parentingplanstudy.pdf

Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur

“Joint custody arrangements, while not common, are found in many communities, particularly in more privileged socioeconomic groups. Whether or not high levels of contact with both biological parents can reduce or eliminate the negative consequences associated with divorce is an open question. To date, researchers have found very little evidence that it does.”  (Pages 6-7 in Growing Up With a Single Parent).

“We have demonstrated that children raised apart from one of their parents are less successful in adulthood than children raised by both their parents. For children living with a single parent and no stepparent, income is the single most important factor in accounting for their lower well-being as compared with children living with both parents. It accounts for as much as half their disadvantage.”
(Page 134 in Growing up With a Single Parent).

Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin

“Custody arrangements may matter far less for the well-being of children than had been thought. The rationale for joint custody is so plausible and attractive that one is tempted to disregard the disappointing evidence and support it anyway. But based on what is known now, we think custody and visitation matter less for children than how much conflict there is between the parents and how effectively the parent the child lives with functions. It is likely that a child who alternates between the homes of a distraught mother and an angry father will be more troubled than a child who lives with a mother who is coping well and who once a fortnight sees a father who has disengaged from his family. Even the frequency of visits with a father seem to matter less than the climate in which they take place. Joint physical custody should be encouraged only in cases where both parents voluntarily agree to it imposing joint physical custody would invite continuing conflict without any clear benefits. In weighing alternative public policies concerning divorce, the thin empirical evidence of the benefits of joint custody and frequent visits with fathers must be acknowledged.”

(Pages 75-76 in Divided Families).

Appendix 8

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in the Netherlands

A.P. Spruijt, B. Eikelenboom, J. Harmeling, R. & H. Kormos

The American Journal of Family Therapy, 33, 303-319.

[Extract]

http://66.102.9.132/search?q=cache:-PVS7MgmXPMJ:igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/fss/2006-0801-202038/spruijt_Parentalalienationsyndrome.doc+American+Journal+of+Family+Therapy,+A.P.+Spruijt,+B.+Eikelenboom&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

In the Netherlands, about 20% of children do not have any contact with their non-resident parent after parental divorce. There are often many reasons underlying the broken contact, but one might well be the process of parental alienation, when the child denigrates and excludes the non-resident parent. This article presents the results of two studies conducted amongst divorce experts and divorced, non-resident parents. A total of 138 respondents co-operated in our studies. Of the respondents, 58% thought PAS either does not, or hardly, occur in the Netherlands, and 42% thought it does.

Findings:

Gardner distinguished three levels of PAS, namely mild, moderate and severe and identified the eight major symptoms. These were:

1. There is an ongoing campaign of denigration against the other parent (mostly the father).

2. The arguments for the slander given by the children are weak, frivolous and/or absurd.

3. The children lack ambivalent feelings in that they declare the non-resident parent to be 100% bad and the resident parent 100% good.

4. The children claim the decision to exclude the non-resident parent as their own and the resident parent supports this ‘independent’ attitude emphatically.

5. The kids support their resident parent automatically. This could result in the child rejecting convincing evidence to the contrary.

6. The children do not feel guilty about cruel behaviour towards the non-resident parent.

7. The children, while excluding the non-resident parent, seem to recite borrowed scenarios that are quite unusual for their age.

8. The hostility expands to the family of the non-resident parent.

Spruijt reports that “We were able to distinguish four separate aspects: two of them concerning alienation due to the resident parent and two concerning alienation due to the child. Our results underpin the importance of mediation, since it seemed that PAS occurred significantly more often when decisions with relation to the children were not taken together by the parents but were determined in court. We consider that compulsory mediation and better communication during divorce would prevent many cases of PAS.”

Additional sources and references:

“The Effects of Divorce on Children : A Selected Literature Review (Canada)” http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_2-dt98_2/toc-tdm.html

“Factors Affecting Children’s Post Divorce Adjustment (Conflict)” http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_2-dt98_2/p3_4.html

Quote; “ . . . Johnston et al. (1985) conducted an in-depth examination of the nature of parental disputes with 39 families who were disputing custody or access arrangements. It should be noted that this sample is biased in that their rate of verbal and physical aggression is considerably higher than that of a normal divorcing sample. However, it provides us with an indication of the devastating effects conflict can have on children.”

Annex

Ideological background

1970s Feminism Brings Only Exulted Equality For Some

It’s been a long journey – and we’re not there yet’

By Carole Cadwalladr, The Guardian Dec 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/dec/07/women-equality-rights-feminism-sexism-women-s-liberation-conference

There’s something satisfying about convening a gathering of 1970s feminists in what still feels like the heart of the British establishment – the Reform Club on Pall Mall, an august neo-classical structure that doesn’t look like it’s changed much since Gladstone’s time.

It represents pretty much everything that Fay Weldon, Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Susie Orbach once struggled against and to a degree succeeded in changing – the Reform Club was the first London gentlemen’s club to admit women on equal terms, in 1981. They, each in their own way, were pioneers in what was then called the Women’s Liberation Movement when the concepts of equal rights for men and women, equal pay, and equality of opportunity were still just that: concepts.

Lynne Sega: “By the end of the Sixties, I had read de Beauvoir and Doris Lessing but there

were no role models apart from them, and it was hard to know quite what to be. So that’s what brought me to women’s liberation: I was a single mother with a child and it simply rescued me. It gave me a grounding to rethink everything. So much of what we did was around how to make motherhood livable, beginning with the situation of childbirth, which was an utter nightmare. I gave birth all alone in hospital – no one was allowed in there with you – and all you could hear were screams.”

Biographical note:

Lynne Segal is Professor of psychology and gender studies at Birkbeck. Segal co-authored (with Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright) the 1979 pamphlet ‘Beyond the Fragments’, which argued for closer links between feminism and left-wing politics. Rowbotham published a groundbreaking pamphlet ‘Women’s Liberation and the New Politics’ in 1969 and was one of the forces behind the first National Women’s Liberation Conference in 1970, which set out a political agenda on issues such as equal pay, education and free contraception. In 1987 Lynne Segal wrote ‘Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism.’


[1]Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” 2002,  http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

[2]  “Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility” Department for Works and Pensions; 26 June 2007. See also “Single mothers to be forced to name fathers on birth certificates”, 16th Mar 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/5001637/Single-mothers-to-be-forced-to-name-fathers-on-birth-certificates.html and http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7160/7160.pdf

[3] Figure 6.1, ONS Population predictions, http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_population/pp2no24.pdf

[4]Would You take One Home with You ?”,  Sue Slipman http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/cw33.pdf

[5]Child contact with non-resident parents”, by Joan Hunt & Ceridwen Roberts, Shared parenting but cite “high conflict families.”

[6] Utrecht Law Review, “Parental relocation, Free movement rights and joint parenting” Christina G. Jeppesen de Boer,  http://www.utrechtlawreview.org/publish/articles/000069/article.pdf

[7]Fathers must help keep children from abuse”, Daily Telegraph, 12th Mar 2009, “Fathers have a vital role to play in keeping children save from abuse, according to Lord Laming’s report in the wake of the death of Baby P. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/baby-p/4980022/Baby-P-report-Fathers-must-help-keep-children-from-abuse.html

[8]Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” (Sept 2002).

[9] Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Tuesday 14 December 2004, Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219), http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmconst/116/4121403.htm. This committee also heard testimony from Women’s Aid  and NSPCC about their view of violence & child abuse.

[10]Divorce and separation: The outcomes for children”, June 1998  (a comprehensive review of over 200 current research reports by Bryan Rodgers and Jan Pryor) http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/divorce-and-separation-outcomes-children

[11] This has to be seen against the backdrop of her own orientation and the failure of her work to aid the children of her lifelong friend Dorothy Burlingham (all of whom died prematurely). Neither Freud nor Burlingham had any qualifications.

[12] BBC documentary ‘The Century of Self’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/century_of_the_self.shtml

[13] See “Sword and Wig” by Lord Justice Dunn.

[14] Psychologist Dr. Richard A. Warshak, Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas, has been studying children for over twenty years. He is one of  North America’s foremost authorities on the effects of divorce on children.  In “The Custody Revolution, The Father Factor” and the “Motherhood Mystique”, he introduces his book by putting the issue squarely:  “…. stereotypes are poor substitutes for factual information. In the last two decades, social scientists have examined different custody arrangements and their effects on children’s development. If this information is ignored, and we continue to allow myth and sentiment to rule custody decisions, we short-change our children and we short-change ourselves.”

[15]Non-Resident Fathers in Britain”,  Jonathan Bradshaw, Carol Stimson, Julie Williams and Christine Skinner Interim Report March 1997 http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/8/ )

[16]More reports of WA mothers mistreating children”, By Nick Taylor, PerthNow, 18 July 2009,  qv. The number of West Australian mothers reported for abusing their children has leapt in the past two years. ttp://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,27574,25802810-2761,00.html

[17] University of Pennsylvania, 1993, ID Number: 1197 http://www.chrr.ohio-state.edu/nls-bib/qauthor.php3?xxx=KING,+VALARIE

[18] Spruijt cites Furstenberg and Cherlin (1991)

[19] Child Development 74(3): 801-821. by Ellis, B., Bates, J., Dodge, K., Fergusson, D. Horwood, L. Pettit, G. & Woodward, L. (2003). http://journals.lww.com/jaacap/Abstract/2006/12000/Early_Father_Involvement_Moderates_Biobehavioral.14.aspx

[20] The review was undertaken by Diane Lye, Ph.D., and Mary Wechsler. http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

[21]The role of the father in child development”,  by Michael E. Lamb http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iwdjF4r_OF0C&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=development+of+children+Lamb+1997&source=bl&ots=hPI3ZNxnZq&sig=2l5PGfPyd0AfcGe4TBY57pGniAM&hl=en&ei=mrQ6SpqyIs7KjAee7u2hDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

[22] “Ouderverstoting in Nederland – Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) en loyaliteitsproblemen bij recente scheidingsgezinnen”, July 31, 2008 http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&langpair=nl%7Cen&u=http://oudervervreemding.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/00003/.

[23] Commission Report No. 1475/2006 and Chapter II, Section II.3.2.2.

Caldwell v Hague [1914]

By Robert Whiston, 14 January 2009

Anyone who has been threatened with a fine or court action by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will know about of this case. It forms the bedrock of their ability to fine the motorist for not having a licence disc (also known as a Road Fund Licence).

Whatever your mitigating pleas their retort is that the case of Caldwell v Hague applies and the DVLA are pleased to record that it has never been ‘successfully’ challenged.

The only problem is that obtaining a copy of the case is far from easy. Therefore, in the public interest this is a transcribed version of the case as supplied to me by the DVLA.

Caldwell v Hague (1914)

Kings Bench Division, Nov 19th 1914

(before Ridley, Avory amd Lush JJ).

 

Motor car – general identification mark – Expiry of period for which granted – Subsequent use of car – Whether notice of expiry regulates – Motor Car Act 1903 (s Edw 7 c26) s 2(4).

By sect 2 (4) of the Motor Car Act 1903 “if a car is used on a public highway without being registered . .. . the person driving the car will be guilty of an offence under this Act …. “

By sect 2(4)(b), “the council or any county or county borough, in which the business premises of any manufacturer of or dealer in motor cars are situated may, on payment of such annual fee, not exceeding £3, as the council requires, assign to that manufacturer or dealer a general identification mark which ay be used for any car on a trial by an intending purchaser, and a person shall not be liable to a penalty under this section while so using the car if the mark so assigned is fixed upon the car ….”

Held, that it is not a defence to a summons for using a motor car without being registered on a public highway after the expiry off the period for which a general identification mark has been granted and the fee has been paid to prove that no notice had been sent by the council that as the time had expired a further fee had become payable.

Case stated by the stipendiary magistrate for the City of Liverpool.

1. An information dated march 28th 1914 was preferred by the appellant, who is the head constable of said city, against the respondent, for that he did on the 22nd of March 1914, did drive a motor car. Then being used on certain public highways to wit, Rose Lane, in the said city without such car being registered, contrary to the statute in such case made and provided.

2. The said information was heard and determined by me sitting as a court of summary jurisdiction at the police courts Dale Street , in the said city n the 8th of April 1914, when I dismissed such information.

3. On the hearing of the said information the following facts were proved or admitted:

a) That the motor car bearing the manufacturers general identification mark KA 490, we driven by the respondent, for the purpose of trial by an intending purchaser in Rose Lane on March 22nd 1914 and that such car was the property of the Mossley Hill Motor Car Works (Eugene Myatt. Proprietor) in whose employ the respondent was.

b) that the said general identification mark was assigned by the council of the said city to Mossley Hill Motor Car Works (Eugene Myatt. Proprietor) on Feb 1st 1913

c) That the fee of £3 required by the said council had been paid upon the assignment of such number on the 1st of February 1913, that no further fee had since been paid or demanded, and there was no notification on such assignment that the said fee was an actual payment.

d) That the said firm, Mossley Hill Motor Car Works, were able and willing to pay and would at any time it any demand or notice had been made or given to them by the said council, have paid the further £3 which becomes due on the 1st day of Feb. 1914, I respect of the further user by the said firm of the said mark.

e) That no notice that the said assignment was determined or that the said firm had no further right to use the said mark after the 31st Jan 1914, had been given by the said council to the said firm.

4. It was contended on the part of the appellant that the assignment of the said gen id mark had ipso facto expired and become void on Jan 31st 1914, and that such assignment could only be renewed, or such mark be reassigned, upon payment by the said firm of a further fee of £3, and that in the absence of the payment of such fee the said firm had no right to use the said mark after Jan 1914 and that consequently the car was unregistered on March 22nd 1914.

5. I was of the opinion that this contention was not rightly founded in law ands I therefore dismissed the said information.

6. The question for the opinion of this honourable court is whether upon the above statement of facts I came to a correct determination in point to law, and, if not, what should be done in the premises.

Given under my had this day 2nd day of July 1914

(Signed) Stuart Deacon.

The Motor Car Act of 1903 sect 2 (4) provides: if a car is used on a public highway without being registered, or if the mark to be fixed in accordance with this Act is not so fixed or being so fixed it is in any way obscured or rendered or allowed to become not easily distinguishable, the person driving the car shall be guilty of an offence under this Act, unless, in the case of the prosecution for obscuring a mark or rendering it to become not so easily distinguishable, he proves that he has taken all steps reasonably practicable to prevents eh mal being obscured or rendered not easily distinguishable.

Provided that . . . . . b) the council of any county or county borough in which the business premises of any manufacturer of or dealer in motor cars are situated, may on payment of such annual fee, not exceeding £3 as the council may require, assign to that manufacturer or dealer a general identification mark which may be used for any car on trial after completion, or on trial by an intending purchaser and a person shall not be liable to a penalty under this section while so using the car, if the mark so assigned is fixed upon the car in the a manner required by the council in accordance with regulations of the local Gov’t Board made under this Act.

Swift KC, for the appellant – The magistrate ignored the fact that it was he duty of the person owing the fee to pay it, and the fact that the council had no power to grant a licence for more than twelve months. These licences are being continually granted and expire on different dates, and if this decision is right the council will have the trouble of continually searching the registrar and sending out notices. In the case of dog licences a notice is usually sent as those licences expire on the same day but there is no obligation to send a notice. The case ought to be remitted to the negative with a direction to convict.

No one appeared for the respondent.

Ridley J – in our opinion this decision of the stipendiary magistrate from Liverpool was wrong. He seems to have thought that there was no liability on the firm that owned the car, because they had not had a notice that the fee of £3 had become due. I can see no obligation on the part of the authorities to send. Any such notice. It is the duty of the owner of the car to ascertain when the annual fee for the renewal of the mark becomes due. The case must be reinstated to the magistrate with a direction to convict.

Judge Lush and Avory agreed [so it was a court of appeal ruling – Ed].

Anna Freud: Part 3 – ‘The curse is cast’

By Robert Whiston FRSA, November 2009

Post 1945 – Tereisenstadt and the ‘Bulldogs Bank’ Experiment

With the end of hostilities in both Europe and the Far East the process of putting families back together again could begin.

As the Axis powers had been rolled back the civilians liberated were at last able to return to their countries, towns and villages and be reunited with their relatives.

With the final surrender displaced prisoners-of-war and slave workers could also begin the long trek home to their families.

Concentrations camps, both German and Japanese, were opened and the years following 1945 effectively saw mass migrations both east and westward across Europe, swollen by millions of former prisoners-of-war held by the Allies and Axis powers being transferred home. No less than 7 million aliens were on the move within the borders of defeated Germany in 1945: some fleeing Soviet forces, some heading eastwards to home, some just trying to survive.

Special camps had to be set up for those with no known nationality, or who no longer had any living relatives, or whose countries refused to taken them back because of border or political changes etc. These people became known as “displaced persons” or DPs. [1] Many had lost or had confiscated their legitimate paperwork detailing their name, nationality and where they lived etc.

Among the many slave workers liberated were a small group of Spanish men taken prisoner by Franco and then transferred to the Nazis to work on the underground bunkers in the Channel Islands (see Part 2). Where could they safely go, back to Franco’s Spain ?

The figure of 6 millions Jews dying in Europe well known but dwarfed by the 200 million non-Jews who died in slave labour work camps, were killed, executed or starved to death.

The new Attlee government was faced with competing demands that stretched from Europe to the Far East. International obligations meant food had to be purchased to feed the 3 million ‘displaced person’ and PoWs in Europe. In Palestine there were 100,000 British troops tied down by factional fighting among the two main Semite tribes (1945 – 1947); India was on the verge of internecine slaughter; and the US had cut off all funding to a bankrupt Britain. [2]

With a larder that was bare Britain had obligations towards her share of 8 million German soldiers captured by the Western Allies who had to be fed and clothed not just while awaiting demobilisation but long after they had returned to a homeland with empty food storages and no crops to harvest. Other counties were equally decimated and on the edge of starvation, e.g. Belgium and Holland. Both the Dutch and the French wanted to regain administrative control of their former colonies in the Far East and placed demands on already hard pressed Allied shipping to get their troops out there as quickly as possible.

In this, the final part, the developments begun in 1946 with the Tereisenstadt orphans and consolidated during the 1950 by Bowlby will be covered; events which helped determine the shape and values of the present ‘life structure’ we inhabit.

Bulldogs Bank Study

With the rest centres closing as demand evaporated and the wartime Hampstead War Nursery concept yet to be converted into the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic, 1946 saw Anna Freud begin a co-operative venture with and Sophie Dann. [3] A unique opportunity arose to observe children who had been orphaned and traumatised in Tereisenstadt, a German concentration camp liberated by the Russians. It involved just six orphaned Jewish children who had lived most of their lives in the camp.

Tereisenstadt (also known in Czech as Terezín), had been a Nazi ‘show camp’ that had featured in their propaganda films but as the need for such films diminished in the closing years of the war, conditions became no better than other concentration camps.

(given the sheer scale of people displacement mentioned above, some must have been children and they must have numbered more than 6).

Freud and Dann’s experiments with children took place at the Bulldogs Bank Home, in Sussex. This was an imposing Sussex house  donated for these children by Lady Betty Clarke, a friend of Anna Freud’s and according to Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, (US academic 1988) their care was financed by the Foster Parents’ Plan.

This gave Freud and Sophie Dann an opportunity to observe extreme parental deprivation. Anna Freud and Dann wrote about the children’s ability to find substitute affections among their peers, in ‘An Experiment in Group Upbringing’.

The six war orphans had been placed in concentration camps with their mothers, by the Nazis during the Second World War Their parent(s) had subsequently been killed not long after their imprisonment and the infants were looked after as far was possible by some of the other pris­oners. It might be more accurate to describe them as totally neglected as they lacked basic speech abilities when they first arrived in England. This would indicate no adult input at a young but crucial stage of a baby’s development.

The Tereisenstadt children in England

Conditions in the camp were unimaginably harsh. Food was scarce and what there was available was thrown to them as if they were animals. There were none of the assumed childhood ‘basics’ such as toys and no one took much notice of them – being consumed with their own survival, one must presuppose.

In such circumstances it would have been impossible to form any strong bonds with adults, as none would have been around for long enough. This presented as a problem on arrival in England for they did no know that interaction and social skills are fundamental to all balanced human beings.

When the war ended and the camp closed the infants were moved to several camps, until they eventually arrived at the Bulldogs Bank reception centre in Surrey, England.

At the time of their arrival, the youngest way approximately three years old, and the oldest was about three years and ten months. It was found that the six children had several things in common.

  1. They had probably never known their mothers and presumably their fathers.
  2. They had no opportunities to form attachments with caregivers (there were none).
  3. They had endured awful living conditions and received virtually no stimulation of any kind.
  4. They had been moved around a lot, and so were not pleased at being moved again.
  5. They couldn’t talk very much, and they knew only a few German and Czechoslovakian swear words. They didn’t know what to do with normal toys, and they destroyed all of the toys they could find – and most of the furniture too.
  6. They did each adopt one special toy, usually a cuddly toy, which they kept near them and always took to bed with them.

Initially they were also hostile and aggressive towards adults – prone to ‘acting up’. When they arrived the solidarity of the six exhibited towards each other was striking enough to be commented upon extensively:

“The feelings of the six children toward each other show a warmth and spontaneity that are unheard of in ordinary relations between young contemporaries” (A. Freud & S Dann, 1951).

Freud and Dann found that the orphans from Tereisenstadt would only turn to an adult if they actually needed something which they couldn’t have in any other way, and as they began to settle, their personalities began to emerge (these were traits recognisable among the Basque refugees initially though to a lesser degree).

The Instinctive ‘Collective’

Two other characteristics the 6 shared were that they had been together for all their lives and they were totally devoted to each other (these traits were only partially in evidence among the Basque children who had grown up in the same streets or neighbourhoods).

They did everything together and apparently refused to be separated for any reason. For example, if one couldn’t go out to the shops or to play, none would want to go out. If one woke up at night, the others would soon be awake. When one stopped eating, they would all stop eating. They did everything as a group.

There was not a single child who was always the leader; each would take ‘the lead’ in different activities. To put it simply, they appeared to be totally attached to each other and had worked out a form of democracy (see ‘Feral children’ below).

It proved different to treat any one of them as an individual even though they each had different needs.

This was the power of the group acting together as a group. Their preference for group cooperation rather than allowing one child to dominant as leader made it virtually impossible to get through to them on the normal one-to-one basis.

However, they eventually learned to speak and play like normal children and gradually they formed emotional relationships with some of the adult members of staff.

They slowly recovered from their early deprivations, but remained attached to each other. What this study shows is that children can survive without mothers, although from information in the public domain, we do not know if any of these children suffered emotional prob­lems in their later lives.

By this route Freud established the importance of the Ego’s function and the concept of the defence mechanism. She parted from her father in thinking that the Id alone was the driver of much of human behaviour.

Misapplication

Based on these observations Freud published a series of studies on the impact of stress on children and their ability to find substitute affections among peers when parents cannot give them the affection needed.

Combined with the body of evidence (subjective observations and their interpretation) built up from the Hampstead War Nurseries etc, she was in a position to publish papers and books (esp. 1973) that were to shape future custody judgments.

The only drawback – the fatal flaw- to this apparent goldmine of revelations was that the studies dealt with only institutionalised children, or institutionalised children from dysfunctional families, or traumatised orphans (and permutations thereof).

Nowhere in her studies save for her debacle with the Burlingham children (see Part 1) does she deal with normal children, i.e. children from 2 living parents who are voluntarily separating or divorcing.

Freud is content to recklessly misapply her findings to private law cases (children from stable but divorcing families) when they should have been confined to public law cases, i.e. abandoned or neglected children of dysfunctional families and inadequate parents.

Anna Freud’s tiny sample size of merely six traumatised 3-year-old infants from a concentration camp is nowhere near comparable to the experiences of peacetime and ordinary domestic divorce. The unrepresentative sample in Freud study could have been tolerated had it not been for the ‘liberation’ of No-fault divorce that swept the western democracies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [4]

In Britain alone over 120,000 divorce occur every year. Across Europe and the US, the number of children blighted by her theories must, over the years, number millions and be comparable with the 6 million Jews and the 8 million freed PoWs mentioned earlier.

It is not in any child’s interest to have its fate sealed by an unrepresentative group of six 3-year-olds.

It is at this juncture that the work of John Bowlby’s ‘attachment theory’ reinforces Freud’s theories and becomes influential to the work of both Melanie Klein, an English based psychoanalyst and Anna Freud. Bowlby’s theory was that the presence of a parent (the primary caregiver) should be continual if the child-to-parent bond and the parent-to-child bond is to be effective. The implications for Freud’s Hampstead work were enormous. Here was someone with no connection to her close circle that was independently validating her creation of the psychological parent.

Bowlby realised that the government policy of mass evacuation to avoid being killed in the Blitz, saved many children from one kind of danger, but exposed them to the harmful consequences of broken attachments (Bowlby, 1951).[5] See also Appendix A.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) commissioned him to write a report into mental health problems of ‘displaced persons’ and homeless children in DP camps across post-war Europe (and thus a far cry from children of divorce where it is applied today).

His paper “Maternal Care and Mental Health” (pub’d 1951) was primarily concerned with the removal of children from their homes and it was instrumental in causing substantive changes in how institutional care as delivered.

Bowlby’s work has, from the very beginning been controversial, sometimes distorted and sometimes misused. For instance, it is alleged by some with an agenda, that its near-universal incorporation into government policy was to allow the re-employment of men demobilised from the forces. There are always those in the academic world prepared to conduct studies to show that “some children reared in orphanages cope rather better than those reared at home.” [6] Notwithstanding these distractions, around him gathered the glitterati of psychoanalyses, Freud, Dann, Burlingham, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, and Mary Ainsworth. [7]

To bring these concepts within the orbit of ordinary people’s understanding James Robertson,  a psychiatric social worker and psychoanalyst based at the Tavistock Clinic (where Bowlby is based) organised the making of a the documentary film “A Two-Year Old Goes to the Hospital”(1952). This is the synopsis:

A little girl aged 2, has to go into hospital for 8 days for a minor operation. Fear of cross-infection means that relatives are not allowed to stay. Because her mother is not there and the nurses change frequently, she has to face the fears, frights and hurts with no familiar person to cling to. She is extremely upset by a rectal anaesthetic. Then she becomes quiet and “settles”. But at the end of her stay she is withdrawn from her mother, and her trust shaken.

Anna Freud and others, like Donald Winnicott, had realised the benefits of involving the absent mother-parent as much as possible and Bowlby had independently articulated the argument. Even today (2009) nursing journals in America and Europe still refer to this type of scenario, i.e. of including/involving only the mother.

For 40 years Winnicott had worked at Paddington Green Children’s as a paediatrician and child psychoanalyst and during World War 2 he served as consultant psychiatrist to the evacuee programme.

Winnicott and Bowlby gave the world two enduring legacies – one was the “good-enough mother” [8] and Bowlby’s observation that “A bad home is better than a good institution.” [9]

Today every mother and even every father is aware of the “security blanket” concept but fails to realise it was Winnicott’s treatment of psychologically disturbed children that led to this development (and the sense of safety and protection of the “holding environment” so crucial to psychotherapy, and the “transitional object”,  known to every parent as the “security blanket.”

Unfortunately, Bowlby’s observations have come to be misused by those in the Social Services profession. Many social workers were taught to regard the separation of the mother from her child as the worst possible solution to a family’s problems. [10] Whatever difficulties stood in the way of the mother and her child staying together, they must be overcome if at all possible. Against common sense social workers were taught to leave a child with a disturbed/ dangerous mother (Sir Roy Meadow similarly has had work misquoted and his work misused).

Given that Freud records most particularly how sibling relationships up and down the age scale and across the gender divide were hugely important to the Tereisenstadt survivors, why is the same logic not applied to male and female parents ? [11] Children at a time of stress need both, not just one, parents to be on hand (re: Tripp & Cockett, 1991, HMSO). An aspect we shall return to later in ‘The Curse’, below.

The opening up of East European orphanages at the end of the Cold War (in the late 1990s) provided substantial research opportunities on the deficiencies of attachment and other aspects of institutionally reared children. But the lessons were not learnt. The judiciary in the West, already in the thrall of Anna Freud’s work, could not identify that the custody they were handing out was of the damaging institutionalising variety.

No one today would condone what happened in those East European orphanages yet the basis on which we operate today is essentially the same pedigree.

Feral Children

Literature is scattered with the not occasional story of ‘wild boy’ being found deep in the Russia forests or raised by wolves etc. Just such a story emerged in the 1997 book, ‘Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years’ (1997). [12] It was claimed that a young Jewish girl had survived the holocaust – always a good selling ploy – and wandered across Europe searching for her deported parents. So successful was the selling of her claim to the public that she had been adopted and protected by a pack of wolves during her journeys that it was made into a film called ‘Surviving with the Wolves’ .

However, in February 2008, Defonseca publicly admitted, that her memoir was false. Her real name was Monique de Wael. Her parents had in fact been taken away by the Nazis but they were not Jews but Catholic members of the Belgian Resistance,

In 1972 Jarmila Koluchova began reporting the case of identical twin boys in Czechoslovakia. The mother died soon after the twins were born (in 1960) and their father had to place the children ‘in care’. A few months later their father remarried and the twins returned home when they were eighteen months old. But the stepmother had interest only for her own children and the infants were neglected, not nourished and kept in an unheated room with no bed. [13]

The true feral child is a human child who has lived a life isolated from human contact from a very young age. He or she has no concept or experience of human care, loving or social behaviour, and, crucially, no knowledge of human language. [14]

Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Some feral children have been confined by people, usually their own parents.

Others are alleged to have been brought up by animals; some are said to have lived in the wild on their own. Just over one hundred incidents have been reported in English literature.

The Fatherless Dimension

The six young Jewish children Freud and Dann observed showed many of these symptoms, e.g. lack of language, found in feral children. Their findings were collated into two publciations; “An experiment in group upbringing” (1951) and their individual stories were described in “Love despite hate” (Moskovitz, 1983).

To date all of Freud work with Burlingham and then Dann had focussed on the maternal input and its sole importance. What the studies showed was that children can survive without mothers or fathers albeit in a damaged state.

Similarly, Donald Winnicott, and Bowlby’s work revolve around disturbed evacuee children – sometimes profoundly disturbed psychologically. It is therefore legitimate to ask just how relevant their work is to children in divorce custody cases.

Today the answer can be found in ‘The International Journal of Psychoanalysis’ where a review by H. Sheehan-Dare of “Infants without Families” [15] comes to some unambiguous conclusions:

Q.1. Does the institution child develop differently from the child brought up in a family?

A.    Yes

Q.2. Why does a child develop differently in an institution ?

A.    Anna Freud’s own research in 1943 at two residential nurseries (housing about 90 children) tells us the reasons.

To quote Freud with regard children in institutions (Chap 1):

‘Superficial observation of children of this kind leaves a conflicting picture. They resemble, so far as outward appearances are concerned, children of middle-class families: they are well developed physically, properly nourished, decently dressed, have acquired clean habits and decent table manners, and can adapt themselves to rules and regulations. So far as character development is concerned, they often prove … not far above the standard of destitute or neglect …. “

Psychologist Dr. Richard A. Warshak, of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas, has been studying children for over twenty years. He is one of North America’s foremost authorities on the effects of divorce on children and is certain of its inappropriateness of the exclusivity given to mother-only custody and mother-only as care giver.

In “The Custody Revolution, the Father Factor and the Motherhood Mystique”, (1992) he introduces his book by putting the issue squarely:  “…. stereotypes are poor substitutes for factual information. In the last two decades, social scientists have examined different custody arrangements and their effects on children’s development. If this information is ignored, and we continue to allow myth and sentiment to rule custody decisions, we short-change our children and we short-change ourselves.”

Richard Warshaks believed the current set of  principles for child care generally are misguided and are affecting nearly every child’s life. He writes:

‘They reinforced the folklore, sentiment and sexual stereotypical views of mother as nurturers substituting them for factual information when deciding custody matters.’

Unholy Trinity

At a time when custody laws were being revisited Freud’s book ‘Beyond the Best Interests of the Child’ (pub’d 1973) could not have arrived at a more opportune moment. In it Freud, and her co-authors, Goldstein, & Solnit, formally introduced the term ‘psychological parent’ to the legal world.

By 1976 the book was being described as ‘monumental’ in importance.[16] Its intention was to provide “the legal and mental health professions with basic guidelines for decision making in situations where a child’s custody or placement is in question” (Buxton MD, Dec 1976).

The stature of its authors and its intrinsic logic assured the book considerable attention – Joseph Goldstein was a Professor of Law, Science and Social Policy at Yale University Law School and Albert Solnit was Director of the Yale University Child Study Centre (and Anna Freud was the Director Hampstead Child Clinic, London).

Beyond the Best Interests of the Child’ is essentially only a suggested set of abstract strategies and theoretical policies – it contains nothing concrete; no detailed prescriptions for specific cases or scenarios.

The reality is that it did not then, nor does it now, recognise the difficulties that present when balancing the demands of existing statutes and procedural systems.

Freud, Goldstein, & Solnit can be accused of failing to properly support their views, or to take into account the evidence available on the development of children in various home settings. Moreover, the authors evoke psychoanalytic sources almost casually without acknowledging the major criticisms that have been levelled at many of these studies (re: Katkin, Bullington, & Levine 1974; Richards 1976) (see ‘Bowlby’s hierarchy’ below). [17]

There can be little doubt 40 years after the fact that the book influenced all in the legal professionals and many judges.Although the guidelines have a degree of wisdom, the advocating of the same criterion for custody and visitation decisions when the raw data is based on dysfunctional children and is meant to apply to dysfunctional children from dysfunctional families is a fatal and catastrophic error.

Nevertheless, Freud, Goldstein, & Solnit were successful in their efforts to apply psychoanalytic and attachment theory to legal issues and have it accepted as the default in any case involving the placement of children.

The Curse

‘Beyond the Best Interests of the Child’ was written with the express intent – acknowledged by its authors – of changing the law relating to adoption, foster care and child residence,

From the very beginning Freud, Goldstein and Solnit appear to have considered joint residence posed some kind of threat. They maintained that authority over a child’s life needs to be clearly allocated to one parent, and that children suffer painful loyalty conflicts if they maintain contact with two parents who are not in a harmonious relationship with each other. This theory has now been challenged and shown not to be wholly correct.

Indeed, examination of the contemporaneous photographs of the Hampstead Nurseries and of Bulldogs Banks show many male therapists and clinicians working with the children (see the Anna Freud Centre website picture below dated 1941). They are not seen as threats but biological fathers are excluded by a cordon sanitaire, i.e. quarantined.

Freud and her collaborators contended that children have only one psychological parent – when it is now known that it is possible to have two – and recommended that this psychological parent should retain sole residence.

They also recommend that the power to decide whether the child should have contact with the outside parent (the father in divorce cases) should be left entirely in the hands of the resident parent (the mother). This might prove alluring to a judiciary unenthusiastic to get involved with custody squabbles and ‘messy’ matrimonial law.

In the words of Maloney (1993) when reappraising Freud and M. Roman & W. Haddad attachment theories (previously mentioned in Part 1);

“One reason why the publication [by M. Roman & W. Haddad] received such notoriety was that in the first flush of enthusiasm for the new approach to family law the book offered a way beyond a perceived decision making impasse which had been created by the abandonment of fault.

The lure of an all encompassing and relatively straight forward principle by which post–divorce decisions could be made, was as strong then as it is now.” [18]

Notoriety is a term not merited but more accurately reflects the challenge their views posed to the emerging ‘received wisdom’; it signals the struggle at the time for dominance of the conventional view.

Goldstein, Freud and Solnit reportedly relied on work done by Bowlby, Spitz and others in order to support their contention that separation from mother is inherently detrimental to a child’s psychological development. However, neither in Goldstein, Freud and Solnit’s footnotes nor in their discussion do they acknowledges the existence of Pinneau’s (1955) devastating critique of Spitz’s work which appeared in the Psychological Bulletin. [19] Both of these articles have been widely cited in the child development literature (see below).

In their model statute, the current best interests of the child standard is replaced by the least detrimental alternative serving, they say, to remind decision-makers that their task is to salvage as much as possible out of an unsatisfactory situation.(see also ‘Eliminating Shared Parenting and ‘Custody – the gathering storm’ WordPress ).

Their imagined legal model would be based on a statute of ‘the least detrimental alternative’.

The least detrimental alternative… is that specific placement and procedure for the placement which maximises in accord with the child’s sense of time and on the basis of short term predictions, given the limitations of knowledge, his or her opportunity for being wanted and for maintaining on a continuing basis a relationship with at least one adult who is or will become his psychological parent.

The concept of a “continuing relationship” said to be essential for a child’s development can be described as premised on the ‘short term predictions’ cited in the above model statute. However, as we know today, good ‘outcomes’ should never be based on short term factors.

Nevertheless, the traditional view of family courts for the past 40 years has been that children are best left in the physical and emotional care of one parent following divorce. Thus, sole residence orders have usually been the option of choice (Bordow 1994).

This chimes with Freud, Goldstein, & Solnit who saw any post–divorce contact between parents (i.e. visitation days),  as inherently confrontational, dangerous and/or violent and again this theory has now been shown to be incorrect. The implication of the authors position is that exposure to continuing parental conflict is more endangering to a child than losing touch with their non–resident parent. Again, both these assumptions have been shown to be incorrect.

What could not have been deduced by Freud in her work over a short number of years with infants and very young children are the adolescent ‘outcomes’.  If we turn to more up-to-date studies, e.g. News-Medical in Child Health News (25th May 2004), we find that the age old Gold Standard is still valid (“Children’s behaviour is linked to contact with real father” [20]

In plain English, while there may have been an inkling from August Aichhorn’s work with young male anti-social behaviour later in life [21] there can have been little idea as to the extent and depth and how it would also affect girls:

“…father-absence continued to affect the rate of early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy exhibited by daughters. In addition rates were highest for early father-absence, in the middle for late father-absence, and lowest for father-present adolescent girls.”

Bowlby’s Hierarchy

Anna Freud became absurdly and hugely influential in government circles in the four decades after 1945. Her findings powerfully reinforced the gathering assumptions in the judiciary, particularly Lord Justice Roger Ormrod who in Britain piloted the changes wrought by the 1969 Divorce Reform Act (see ‘Killing Custody’ WordPress).

The Freudian doctrine rather overshadowed what Bowlby had actually said and what Roman & Haddad (1978) were groping towards (see below). Its attraction was perhaps due to its simplistic concept that allowed non-initiates to believe they had attained some form of Holy Grail.

For instance, a 1962  World Health Organisation paper ‘Deprivation of maternal care: A Reassessment of its Effects’ by Mary Ainsworth et al, [22] contains a chapter called ‘Review of Findings and Controversy,’ in which the distinction between ‘separation’ from a parent and ‘parental deprivation’ is carefully set out in an unbundled way.

It was written with Bowlby’s his approval as a vehicle to present more recent research and developments and to address misapprehensions. This publication also attempted to address the previous lack of evidence on the effects of paternal deprivation.

What is often forgotten today is that men and fathers in 1945 or 1950 were far less demonstrative towards their children. This should not be interpreted – now or then – as them loving them any less. However, men and fathers today are far more overtly affectionate when compared with their own fathers and custody awards that do not reflect this are particularly unsuitable and pernicious. Private letters from Ypres and the Somme tell the historian today how much love fathers then felt towards their children. The singer Peter Andre once married to model Katie Price (Jordan) is a perfect example of the modern affectionate father (Channel 4 series). The love he expresses is no different from the fatherly love of 1914 or 1916.

Bowlby said that growing up at home – even in a poor home – was preferable to growing up in even the best institution, as the mother-child attachment bond could best develop at home (see ‘Misapplication’, re East European orphanages above).

He claimed that babies make one central attachment to one main caregiver preferably the baby’s natural mother, although that caregiver could be a mother other than the baby’s natural mother. Bowlby’s theory envisaged a hierarchy of attachments, with the mother at the top and all other attachments being inferior to that one (we now know this to also be untrue).

“Schaffer and Emerson showed in their Glasgow study, that about half of the sample of sixty children had also made attachments to their fathers or other family members within two months of making their first attachment. Each attachment can be of equal strength and equal value for the child.” (http://www.jeffstanden.net/Davenport%20excerpts.htm).

Almost all branches of the caring professions responsible for child welfare in varying degrees, began to change some of their practices to avoid unnecessary separation of mothers and children. From their position what he had written about children and mothers seemed to fit the facts. Therefore, hospitals began to allow young children to stay with their mother for longer periods, if the mother wasn’t too ill and vie versa with cots were provided so that children could sleep near their mothers. These arrangements were not extended to fathers.

The family courts in its caring capacity similarly adopted this mother-first approach in custody matters (and heavily criticised by Dr Joan Kelly (see Mental Health below).

Arguably, if the family courts had not been selective in which orthodoxy to adopt they would found the consistency and continuity model of Roman & Haddad the most suitable for children’s needs. Courts, they held, should begin from the premise of “a rebuttable presumption of joint residence”. Meaning that the default position was joint residence (in the custody sense and not the legal fiction seen in the US) unless it could be shown that this was unwise.[23]

Although Roman & Haddad can be said to be on the non-Freudian side of the child care issue, they shared with Goldstein, Freud, & Solnit, the idea that children need consistency and continuity of affection.

Where they diverged from the Freudian view was that only ‘joint residence’ allowed the consistency to continue to become a reality (consistency – not solely continuity in the form of one parent). To break the bond between the child and one parent arbitrarily is to destroy continuity of care. They argued that joint residence allows both adults the gratification of parenting (Exeter Study, Tripp & Cockett, 1991, HMSO). According to Maloney (1993), this stance earned Roman & Haddad some “notoriety” among academics. [24]

Roman & Haddad argued that joint residence allows both adults the gratification of parenting and indeed this common sense approach was in operation in Britain until 1991 when the Children Act 1989 became effective. In practice it majored, or legitimised, the mother as the exclusive and primary giver of child care. Therefore, the question has to be posed; ‘Did the adoption of the ‘attachment theory’ wholly or partly explain the sudden termination of the joint custody tradition in Britain after 1991 ?’

World Health Organisation

The Mary Ainsworth’s WHO paper of 1962 is cited by Goldstein, Freud and Solnit as supportive of their views. But as mentioned above, Ainsworth’s paper drew great distinctions between those aspects that the Freudians were tending to merge as monolithic system of beliefs (see ‘Review of Findings and Controversy’).

The very same chapter discusses; a). the variability in the degree of damage caused by deprivation and b). that damage is not manifested in every case, nor are the effects always severe, and c). the possibility that the damaging effects of deprivation are only temporary.

Also in the same WHO paper is an article by Prugh & Harlow which emphasises the limitations on existing knowledge in this area, and an article by Barbara Wootton which reviewed a substantial body of literature which fails to confirm Bowlby’s theorem.

Later made a Baroness, Barbara Wootton’s would write in still greater detail in her book “Social Science and Social Pathology” (pub’d 1959). [25] It was described by Morris (1989, p. 313) as a book to be regarded as “one of the most important works of critical criminology”. Although it was a discourse on criminology it discussed social work in one chapter, entitled “Contemporary Attitudes in Social Work” and assessed the social work literature and the status of the profession.[26]

All of these contrary pointers were available to Freud, Goldstein and Solnit, yet they chose to write as if no questions existed about the concepts they used (ibid at 684-685).

It is impossible to state that child care is a topics universally agreed upon by all – far from it. Yet all the professions hovering around family courts assume that it is. Undeniably it remains a controversial area of exploration and many thinkers one would not immediately associate with custody and child care matters have weighed into the fray. One possible reason for this is that the Freudian model sees the state as ultimately responsible and therefore this legitimises its active engagement in private matters, i.e. public policy and options intruding into private lives.

One such unexpected commentator is George Gilder. [27] He follows up a withering appraisal of state provided child care by referring to other Bowlby studies, Maternal Care and Mental Health and Deprivation of Maternal Care. [28]

Quoting from Bowlby’s ‘Child care and Growth of Love’ (where he states; “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that with the best will the world a residential nursery cannot provide a satisfactory emotional environment for infants and young children …. ), this is not merely an idea that comes from theories, it is the considered opinion of many practical workers in many different countries.” He continues;

“So many helpers were necessary if their infant was to receive the continuous care of a permanent mother substitute, which their observations should to be essential, that it would be better for each worker to a take a couple of children home and close the nursery ” (p160).

It is this state intervention in its varying guises and strength based on a model designed by an elite that is being questioned. In “Towards a History of the Self Reliant Family in Australia” fundamental questions are posed. For some the major concern with state provision and or intervention is that they cause a breakdown in family relations and responsibilities by neutralising policies that promote self-reliance (see examples from Carlson, IPA, Clark, Gilder l980).

For instance, and echoing sentiments found in all the western advanced nations “ . . . Farrer also points out that the [Australian] federal government’s introduction of the Child Support Scheme re-opened the debate about whether dependence on the State was better than dependence on individual men. He also suggests that the scheme signals a new role for the State. The ‘state has become a mediator – a go between – for individuals no longer bound by the relationships of family, but rather the obligations of past contracts.’ (Farrar 1994).”[29]

It also begs the question whether it spawns mental and moral delinquency knowing that the taxpayer will pickup most of the pieces ?

Those same advanced nations have been blinded, or at best distracted, to the income transfers within families.

In 1971 only 10.4% of the population depended on social transfers, with 47.4 % dependent on income (wages) transferred within the family between spouses.

By 1992 those whose income depended on social security payments had risen steadily from 10.4% to 27.5 % of the population.

According to Farrar, a little more than a third of this reflects the inability of the economy to keep pace with increased labour market participation (particularly during the recession) and the consequent growth of unemployment.

But a third also reflects the increasing number of women and children no longer supported by a family wage earner (Farrar 1994).

The remainder reflects the increased number of older people and the increased availability of disability payments.”

Mental Health

Dr Joan Kelly writing in Australia prior to that country’s adoption of joint residence in 2006, makes some very astute observations which are worth paraphrasing. In her paper “Joint Custody Not Matched by Scrutiny of Sole Custody” she writes of how ironic it is that all the professions drawn to the family court circus, have subjected ‘joint custody’ to an intensity of scrutiny never directed toward its alternatives.[30]

The depth of this interrogation, its duration over decades and the many level at which it dissected would have smashed the sole custody option long ago. The fact that ‘joint custody’ has withstood the onslaught is testament to its inherent virtues and robustness.

The fact that real joint custody, i.e. shared residence, it is now found in other countries, e.g. Holland, Belgium, etc, pulls the rug from under the feet of its detractors who in the case of radical feminists in Australia are fighting ferociously to have it abolished. After only a few years and no major hiccups have yet to occur, could it be that the latent power and unrealised potential fills the sole custody camp, i.e. mother-only-custody, with horror ?

Blinkered thinking and closed horizons precludes hints that might be gained from other theatres of expertise. For example, ‘separation anxiety’ displayed by dogs when the owner leaves the house is a common feature (found in about 10%). The dog is not traumatised by war, or starvation; there is no deprivation or maltreatment involved, yet the dog misses the company of its usual companions even if only for a shirt time.

How then can we expect the traditional divorce arrangements, where ‘sole custody’ is given to the mother and 4 to 6 days per month of ‘visiting’ is given to the father, to work satisfactorily ?

Joan Kelly then goes on to assert that she is aware of  a growing body of evidence that such post divorce relationships, i.e. giving father only 4 to 6 days per month and the remainder to the mother, is not only ‘unhealthy for many children’ and parents but ‘in fact, psychologically destructive’ for children.

“Since 1962, when the spiral of divorce rate began, countless thousands of father-child relationships have deteriorated and thinned to a relationship of mere formality in the years after divorce.” –  Joan Kelly.

The form of words, ‘mere formality’, could just as easily read ‘legal formality’ for they convey nothing of substance or envy, simply an acknowledgement of powerlessness.

For Britain 1962 also marked the embryonic beginning of an increase in divorces (after a steady decline though the 1950s) but the floodgates only opened after the reform Acts of 1969 and the early 1970s – this is also probably true of Australia.

Overweeningly focused on the mother-child relationship the consequence was a de-emphasis of the father-child relationship. Kelly makes these two points which are worth developing:

“Over time, mother-child relationships achieved sanctity. Today, we find mothers who feel that they essentially own their children.”

Firstly, the brick wall fathers face in getting courts when trying to get access time or shared residence can be traced back to this ‘sanctity’ dogma – a mantra invoked whenever fathers get too close to succeeding. Secondly, father rights groups are criticised for trying to make children their chattels and to have guardianship rights over them (‘It’s the only reason why fathers want shared residency’ is the cry from the sole custody camp). But as we can see from Kelly’s interpretation, it is actually women / mothers who feel they have proprietarial rights over ‘her’ children.

The growing body of evidence that such post-divorce relationships were not healthy for many children was simply ignored by mental health professionals. When mental health was discussed it a in the context of keeping an unstable mother stabilised by ensuring she had custody of the children (the thinking was presumably that removing the children would definitely destabilise her.[31] Until very recently mental health professionals did not challenge the arrangements that led to this situation.

Rigidity of Thought

In much the same way both CAFCASS, and its paymaster, the Lord Chancellor’s Dept, stubbornly refused to accept the argument for shared parenting and its beneficial mental health consequences. Obduracy by CAFCASS leadership meant that the vacuum of having no central research library, no list of recommended texts nor any similar specialist facility for its practitioners was never filled.

They could not see, or did not want to see, that marginalising fathers as the divorce process does, actually jeopardises the life and health of a child. The Climbie and Baby P tragedies have underlined our 2001 recommendations; it may have forced a re-assessment but concrete steps are visible yet.

Joan Kelly, in effect, acknowledges the ‘limbo land’ into which fathers are condemned and then are expected to exist (see Appendix B). Moreover, in this limbo land where the father has no rights worth mentioning he is nonetheless still held liable for any misdemeanour.

Britain already spends more on social services than it does on the defence of the realm – even now in wartime conditions (HM Treasury figures). One Dept alone, the Home Office claims to be spending on domestic violence (though this is questionable), an amount equivalent to that spent on all defence costs i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force.[32] Such a pattern will only bring about an inevitable inwards collapse and impotence comparable to Luxembourg to resist aggressors.[33]

The rigidity with which advocates hold to this one child care model, first devised more than 50 years ago is alarming. No room is allowed for alternatives paradigms; they exclude the possibility of a complementary paradigm probably because it is seen as a substitute that might eventually take over their model.

“Beyond The Best Interests Of The Child” made the case for a presumption of sole custody. Contact with the non-custodial parent is seen as inevitably conflict ridden, resulting in confusion, loyalty conflicts, and, ultimately, maladjustment for the child. [34] It is, therefore, this fulcrum, this pivoting point, that has to be overcome comprehensively.

Disunited Front

It is curious and something of a conundrum that from a disjointed and squabbling disparate group of individuals with fragile egos that a mass movement should have emerged.

A detour into the machinations of the professional rivalry to be found in the world of psycho-analytics, psychologist and psychiatrist would be too exhausting and too unedifying to detail in this context, however, some aspects need to be highlighted.

From 1941 to 1945 there was the deadly struggle for supremacy between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, over control of the orthodoxy and control of the British Psychoanalytical Society (then the most eminent). Both women and their followers were battling for the right to be called Sigmund Freud’s true intellectual heirs.

Austrian born Klein had moved to Britain in 1927 and thus had built up a following and become a major influence on the theory and technique of psychoanalysis in Great Britain. The arrival of the Freuds in 1938 jeopardised these gains.

The society was so riven with protracted infighting that it split into three wings (1) Kleinian, (2) Anna Freudian, and (3) the ‘Middle Group’ later called the ‘Independent Group’ These divisions remains to the current time. The so-called ‘controversial discussions’ of the 1940s was the euphemism given to this infighting.

Suffice to say that this jockeying for position and for the mantle of the profession was an inelegant if essential process. Nearly everyone fell out with everyone else at one time or another.

Winnicott, along with Ronald Fairbairn, Michael Balint, Masud Khan, John Bowlby, and Margaret Little, belonged to the ‘Middle Group’.

Winnicott’s career involved many of the great figures in psychoanalysis and psychology such as the ‘Bloomsbury set’ figures such as James Strachey, R. D. Laing, and Masud Khan, a wealthy Pakistani émigré who was a highly controversial psychoanalyst.

Klein was an iconoclast within a profession dominated by male physicians. She is occasionally denigrated by some principally one suspects because she had no formal academic qualifications, e.g. a bachelor’s degree – but the same could be said of Anna Freud, she was unqualified (having trained as teacher), was self-taught and technically untrained.

Nonetheless, the clash of personalities and colliding egos which should have tolled the death knell for their ambitions or at the very least stultified their theories from reaching the statue book. That they were converted into law globally is puzzling.

Legacy

Anna Freud remains something of an enigma. Interviewed on television Freud’s own nephew describes her as “distant, cold, unapproachable and lacking love, emotion or spontaneity.” A more unlikely candidate for a life dedicated to examining the nuances of child care is hard to imagine.

In today’s highly charged and moralistic climate, would we trust our children to the care of someone who in adolescence and probably later in life experienced severe psychopathologies including (see Part 2), sado-masochistic fantasies, latent-homosexuality, depression and masturbation ?

‘Fast forward’ to the present day and not just Anna Freud but all her nurses and volunteer helpers would have to submit to a check by the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB), before being allowed to work with or near children. [35]

But is it fair to impose today’s value systems on yesteryear’s events ? So far as can be ascertained the question has not been posed but if it is valued question it can be answered by others who are more expert and more au fait with Freud’s life. Or is it that her own early life experiences made her especially ‘sensitive’ to the needs of vulnerable children ?

The popular press, when explaining hideous crimes of a sexual nature, informs a still incredulous public that experts believe that sex offenders beget sex offenders.’ That is to say, sex abuse at an early age is a ballpark indicator of a predisposition by some (not all) child victims to abuse others later in life.

Bettina Arndt, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, reflects what has, in effect, been happening all across the English speaking world.[36]

“ . . . For 20 years this country has been in the grip of hysteria about sexual abuse in which wild claims have flourished in the absence of rational, informed inquiry.

She then goes on to mention a ‘powerful’ book by Philip Jenkins which traces the cyclical history of bouts of public hysteria about sexual molestation. [37]

He suggests the tenacity of the current moral panic is due to the pivotal role of former victims. Jenkins suggests that, for the first time in history, millions of people “construct their self-identity in terms of the experiences of sexual victimisation”, with the result that victims now drive the political and moral agenda.

On the one hand we have conformist intellectuals denying that the family is breaking down (it has only been ‘changing’, they say), and denying there been a rise in crime, only an increase in ‘moral panic’. [38]

The same intellectuals are of the opinion that divorce reform temporarily creates “moral panic” but that it can safely be ignored because it is overwhelmingly generated in the press and will be short lived.

On the other hand supposed conformist intellectuals are not averse to heightening public consciousness by invoking advocacy research; predictions of calamities; ‘scary’ numbers; fatalistic theories, and anecdotal evidence.[39] Forget the democratic process, today these are the methods used by pressure groups to create a socio-political climate in which it is easier to influence government

Moral panic and advocacy research are undisputedly the new ‘levers of power’, and its adherents will not let go until the changes they want have happened (see Philip Jenkins above).

So is this the avenue Feud and her colleagues used ? Is this the way they foisted a new mind set, a new paradigm, on society ?

Paedophilia is loathed in nearly every civilisation and society never ceases to be shocked by new revelations in the press. But the public is slowly waking up to the idea that paedophilia and sexual abuse generally is not an exclusively male preserve. The media has become more courageous in reporting women accused or convicted of paedophilia.

In April 2009 the BBC website carried an article headlined “Are there women paedophiles ?” [40]

Then in Oct 2009 a 39 year old nursery worker Vanessa George was convicted of being part of an internet paedophile ring and of committing ‘horrific’ acts in children.[41]

After her conviction her shocked distraught husband described his wife as “pure evil” and attempted to commit suicide.

Vanessa George’s her online accomplices who linked up through ’Facebook’ were Angela Allen, 39, and Colin Blanchard, 38. Later a third woman, Tracy Lyons, a heavily pregnant mother of eight was arrested in the paedophile probe. She had briefly worked as a volunteer assistant in a private nursery near her home. [42]

Modern parents face the same prospect of earlier generations of suddenly losing a child to a fatal illness, albeit the risks are far less today. But do parents face the same likelihood of their child being abused by a relative or a ‘person in a position of trust’ ? Or has it all to do with media’s readiness to headline such news.

Is Freud so above reproach that there no need to look into Freud’s personal life and re-assess her involvement with what is today fashionably termed vulnerable children ?

For all the abuse heaped on Sir Roy Meadow for his findings with regard child deaths in one family (Sally Clark), he was only applying the science available to him and the probabilities common to text books on the subject. [43] With the passage of time the court and the media may come see their reaction as more hysterical then helpful. Their conduct will have dissuaded the medical professionals from intervening and in effect forcing them to put their careers ahead of saving children from abuse and or homicide (see Appendix C).

Another media scandal has swirled around Dr Southall, who has been praised as a pioneer by colleagues, while vilified as arrogant and dangerous by parent/patients.

He first came to prominence through his video evidence of nearly 40 women trying to harm/kill suffocate their own children while they were receiving hospital treatment on the children’s wards of the North Staffordshire Hospital. [44] Police were informed but after deliberations no charges were brought.

Whatever the merits of those that support and those that decry the two doctors it is curious to note the shrivelling in SIDS (the phenomenon of children suddenly dying in their cots) during this period. [45] Prior to 1971 no records of SIDS were kept (more detail at Appendix D), but for the relevant and controversial years the figures are as follows:

“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” (SIDS)
Year No. of SIDS Deaths
1971 1,600+
1997 393
1998 284
2000 245
2001 231
2008 300 (est)
ONS. Source: ‘Population Trends’, No.92. (Summer 1998), Table 9.2, et al. England & Wales

Meadow once stated that “SIDS has been used, at times, as a pathological diagnosis to evade awkward truths.” According to the American ‘Kids Health’ organisation:

“SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old, and claims the lives of about 2,500 each year in the United States. It remains unpredictable despite years of research.”

(http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/sids.html)

We should not fear dealing harshly with Freud and her dogmas, after all, she dealt harshly with parents, particularly fathers.

In “Beyond the Best Interests of the Child“, Freud, Goldstein, & Solnit accept they will be criticised by some who will say their views are too child-oriented and to neglectful of the needs and rights of the adults. They defend themselves from this by claiming that ‘there is nothing one-sided about our position.’ In the next sentence this is flatly contradicted by them stating that “the child’s interests should be the paramount consideration once, but not before, a child’s placement becomes the subject of official controversy.”

This can only be interpreted as asserting the child interests come first but the mothers interests, i.e. the placement, comes “more first.” If this is the ranking then this takes the country and child care back to the 1839 position but with the mother rather than the father having priority (see “Killing Custody” wordpress).[46]

The castration of fathers is driven home by the other side of their coin which states that the law will be invoked to ‘assure non-interference by the state in the continuity of any adults serving as parents’. In 95% of cases this will be the mother because mothers, to accord with the ‘psychological parent’ theory will be the default ‘child’s placement’.

The same doctrine excludes the parent who provides the ‘continuing care’ from interference in the way they raise their children and safeguards them not only from state intervention but from “law-aided and law-abetted harassment by disappointed adult claimants”, i.e. fathers.

Freud, Goldstein, & Solnit set out to deliberately change the law relating to child custody and they succeeded admirably. They even suggested and from daily experience they succeeded in ensuring that the injunction towards children should disregard those laws made by adults for the protection of adult rights (see Appendix E).

How their theories will be judges in 5 years time will be illuminating as one by one countries adopt shared residence and shared custody as the preferred default custody position.

Will Freud’s work be shown to have been futile, wrongheaded, even destructive ?

Can those who have so ardently invested their profession in her theories ever recover their reputations ? Are their futures slipping away like sand between their fingers ?

Already the answer from Australia is that they are trying hard to turn back the clock so that they will not have to face such an ignoble end to their careers. [47] See Appendix F.

Anyone considering legislative changes in Britain should heed the words of Dr Jessica Pearson who perceptively said of changes made some 40 years ago that “Legal changes won’t bring reforms”, meaning that legislative changes do not guarantee alterations unless there is the will to introduce change. [48]

E N D

Appendices

Appendix A

The Thieves Study (Bowlby, 1944)

John Bowlby believed that the relationship between the infant and its mother during the first five years of life was most crucial to socialisation. He believed that disruption of this primary relationship could lead to a higher incidence of juvenile delinquency, emotional difficulties and antisocial behaviour. To support his hypothesis, he studied 44 adolescent juvenile delinquents in a child guidance clinic.

Aim: To investigate the effects of maternal deprivation on people in order to see whether delinquents have suffered deprivation. According to the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, breaking the maternal bond with the child during the early stages of its life is likely to have serious effects on its intellectual, social and emotional development.

Procedure: Bowlby interviewed 44 adolescents who were referred to a child protection program in London because of stealing- i.e. they were thieves. Bowlby selected another group of 44 children to act as ‘controls’. N.b. controls: individuals referred to clinic because of emotional problems, but not yet committed any crimes. He interviewed the parents from both groups to state whether their children had experienced separation during the critical period and for how long.

Findings: More than half of the juvenile thieves had been separated from their mothers for longer than six months during their first five years. In the control group only two had had such a separation. He also found several of the young thieves (32%) showed ‘affectionless psychopathy’ (they were not able to care about or feel affection for others).

None of the control group were affectionless psychopaths. In a later paper, he reported that 60 children who had spent time apart from their mothers in a tuberculosis sanatorium before the age of 4 showed lower achievement in school.

Conclusion: Affectionless psychopaths show little concern for others and are unable to form relationships. Bowlby concluded that the reason for the anti-social behaviour and emotional problems in the first group was due to maternal deprivation.

Evaluation: The supporting evidence that Bowlby (1944) provided was in the form of clinical interviews of, and retrospective data on, those who had and had not been separated from their primary caregiver.

This meant that Bowlby was asking the participants to look back and recall separations. These memories may not be accurate. Bowlby designed and conducted the experiment himself. This may have lead to experimenter bias. Particularly as he was responsible for making the diagnosis of affectionless psychopathy.

Critics of Bowlby’s theory (examples):

Schaffer & Emerson (1964) noted that specific attachments started at about 8 months and, very shortly thereafter, the infants became attached to other people. By 18 months very few (13%) were attached to only one person; some had five or more attachments.

Rutter (1981) points out that several indicators of attachment (such as protest or distress when attached person leaves) has been shown for a variety of attachment figures – fathers, siblings, peers and even inanimate objects.

Critics such as Rutter have also accused Bowlby of not distinguishing between deprivation and privation – the complete lack of an attachment bond, rather than its loss. Rutter stresses that the quality of the attachment bond is the most important factor, rather than just deprivation in the critical period.

Another criticism of ‘44 Thieves Study’ was that it concluded that affectionless psychopathy was caused by maternal deprivation [only]. This is correlational data and as such only shows a relationship between these two variables. Indeed, other external variables, such as diet, parental income, education etc. may have affected the behaviour of the 44 thieves, and not, as concluded, the disruption of the attachment bond.

Supporters of Bowlby’s theory (examples):

Harlow‘s research with monkeys however supported Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation. He showed that monkeys reared in isolation from their mother suffered emotional and social problems in older age. The monkey’s never formed an attachment (privation) and as such grew up to be aggressive and had problems interacting with other monkeys.

Konrad Lorenz (1935) supports Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis as the attachment process of imprinting is an innate process.

Appendix B

‘Custody Decision Making in Historical Context’

By Joan Kelly, Journal Issue: Children and Divorce, Volume 4 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1994

http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=63&articleid=414&sectionid=2825

and

http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm?doc_id=75570

. . . . The assumption that mothers were better suited to raise children received an intellectual underpinning in the 1940s from Freudian psychoanalytic theory, which emphasized the mother’s role as “unique . . . the first and strongest love object . . . the prototype of all later love relations. The subsequent body of theory and research on the development of infant attachments to the mother was equally influential in supporting the maternal preference.

Later research indicating infants formed meaningful attachments to both of their parents by the middle of the child’s first year provided support to paternal claims for sole or joint custody.

Newly formed fathers’ rights advocacy groups provided the impetus for a joint custody movement, supported in the early 1980s by lay and scholarly publications which described various advantages of joint custody for society, parents, and children.

. . . .In Roman law, children were viewed as the property of their father, who had the absolute power to sell his children and enter them into enforced labor. Mothers had no legal rights with respect to their children, even as guardians in the event of the father’s death.

. . . . In later English common law, fathers continued to have near absolute powers, and the legal obligation to protect, support, and educate their children. Thus, in divorce, until the mid-nineteenth century, fathers had a right to custody as well, regardless of circumstances, and mothers had very restricted access to their children after divorce.1 A landmark change was initiated with the British Act of 1839, which directed the courts to award custody of children under the age of seven to mothers, and to award visiting rights to mothers for children seven years and older.

Appendix C

Court action may dissuade rigorous examination of children in danger by medical professionals – NSPCC fears a ‘charter for child killers’

By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent, 25 January 2004

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/story.jsp?story=484519

Children’s charities have warned that parents who abuse or murder their children may escape prosecution because of the controversy surrounding cot death cases.

The damning High Court ruling in the Angela Cannings case last week is raising serious concerns that child abuse cases could become impossible to prove or prosecute.

And the notoriety heaped on Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the expert witness at the centre of the cot death scandal, is causing many paediatricians to say they do not want to become involved in child abuse cases.

But children’s charities are concerned that the Cannings ruling could demonise paediatricians and social workers, and allow a small minority of parents literally to get away with murder.

High Court judges, who cleared Mrs Cannings of killing two of her children, ruled that in cases where two expert witnesses disagree on the cause of death, there should be no prosecution.

The judgment also seriously questioned Professor Meadow’s theory that one cot death in a family is a tragedy, two are suspicious and three, unless proved otherwise, must mean murder.

The ruling prompted the Attorney General to order an urgent review of all cases in which a mother was convicted of killing a child under the age of two.

Thousands of parents, who had their children taken away and fostered or adopted after being accused of abuse, have also called for reviews of their cases.

Professor Meadow is under investigation by the General Medical Council and is to appear before a professional conduct committee.

Christopher Cloke, head of child protection policy at the NSPCC, said: “I do think this is a cause for serious concern. We don’t want to see innocent parents being prosecuted, but we are also concerned that where children have been abused, it will now be very difficult to prove or prosecute a case.

“I have heard healthcare professionals say they would be reluctant to get involved in any child abuse cases after what has happened in the Cannings case.

“We need experienced people, well trained in child protection issues, to ensure that children are protected.”

The National Confidential Inquiry into Stillbirth and Death in Infancy, the most recent and conclusive research into cot death, estimated that 6 per cent of deaths diagnosed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids) are in fact murder. That means there are at least 20 cases a year in which parents have murdered their babies and it has been diagnosed as cot death.

Professor Meadow was the first person, 20 years ago, to describe the condition Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, in which parents deliberately harm their children to draw attention to themselves.

Research by experts at Bournemouth University, published last year, found that child murder cases in England and Wales have fallen by 66 per cent in the past 20 years and are now the fifth lowest in the Western world.

By comparison, child homicide rates in the US have reached record highs and are the fourth highest in the West.

The lead researcher, Professor Colin Pritchard, said the success had been down to investment in child protection units in Britain.

He said: “Unlike the US, which cut its child welfare programmes, English services have been safeguarded. Social Services, despite the rare tragic mishaps, have never worked closer with police and child health and have made inroads into the previous high tolls.”

The NSPCC is calling for a national system of investigating all child deaths to try to improve understanding of cot death and abuse cases.

Mr Cloke said: “What we need are experienced paediatric pathologists, trained social workers and close working between all the different agencies so that all deaths are thoroughly and fairly investigated.”

Appendix D

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) sprang to prominence in the mid-1990s and appeared to defeat all attempts to locate causation.

1. Abuse blamed for some cot deaths – Sir Roy Meadow

BBC on-line, Health issues, Thursday 7 January 1999

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_249000/249946.stm

Extract:-

There are 500 cot deaths a year, according to cot death charities

A small number of babies who have been diagnosed as dying from cot death may actually have been the victims of child abuse, a leading expert has warned.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow says the term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death should be revised or abandoned. He suggests replacing it with “unexplained” or “undetermined”.

“SIDS has been used, at times, as a pathological diagnosis to evade awkward truths,” he said.

He added that the media portrayal of SIDS made it seem as if there was one cause for it when it just means that an infant has died suddenly and their death is a mystery.

About one baby in every 500 dies from cot death, making it one of the commonest causes of death among young infants. Studies have variously linked cot deaths to the practice of putting babies to sleep on their  stomachs, or to smoking in pregnancy and around the newborn baby, over-warm rooms and low birth weight.

2. Cot death risk soars if mothers are single”

By Jenny Hope, Medical, Correspondent, Daily Mail, Friday, August 23, 2002
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-134818/Cot-death-risk-soars-mothers-single.html

The babies of single mothers are six times more at risk of dying of cot death than those of married parents. Cot deaths have fallen to the lowest level since records began in 1975.  There were 231 sudden infant deaths in England and Wales in 2001. In 2000 there were 245.

But the rate of cot death among children of single mothers is 1.28 per 1,000 live births – six times higher than the rate of 0.2 per 1,000 for babies of married couples.

The second highest rate is for babies registered by unmarried parents living at different addresses – 0.71 per 1,000 live births. Babies whose unwed parents live together are twice as likely to die as those with married parents.

Upper class married parents were least likely to suffer a cot death, says the National Statistics Office. Unwed manual workers faced treble the risk.

The rate for babies under 3.31b was seven times that for babies weighing 7.71b or more. Giving birth aged under 20 also increases risk. Chief medical statistician Peter Goldblatt said: `Lone parents are more likely to be younger, from manual social classes and with low birthweight babies.’

But the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) claims the number of `unascertained’ deaths increased by two and a half times in five years: They say pathologists do not always recognise a cot death.

3. More than half of cot deaths ‘happen when babies are sleeping with their parents’, according to a new study

By Kate Devlin,, Medical Correspondent,Daily Telegraph 14th Oct 2009

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6317317/Half-of-cot-deaths-happen-when-babies-are-sleeping-with-their-parents.html

Experts warned that the findings showed that the safest place for young children was in a cot beside their parents’ bed.

. . .. . More than 300 babies continue to die [in Eng & Wales] every year from the syndrome, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“. . . .Of the 80 unexpected deaths analysed, more than half (54%) occurred while co-sleeping, compared with a 20 per cent co-sleeping rate among both control groups.” The Times.

Source: ONS “Trend in Cot Deaths” (1986 – 1996)  Health Statistics Quarterly 05 Spring 2000

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/articles/hsq/HSQ5SIDs.pdf

4. ‘Myths Aside, Traditional Families Protect Kids Best – British Report Stirs Up Debate About Sexual Abuse’

By Zenit, 22 Dec 2000
http://www.zenit.org/article-205?l=english

Extract:

“ …… According to the now defunct British Family Court Reporter Survey, children are no less than 20 to 33 times safer when they live with their biological parents than when they live in any other type of household. In 1989, the University of Iowa studied 2,300 cases of sexual abuse and found that non-biological fathers were almost four times as likely as fathers to sexually abuse children in their care.”

Appendix E

“Beyond the Best Interests of the Child” (1973)

by Anna Freud, Albert Solnit, Dorothy Burlingham, and Joseph Goldstein.

http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adoption/archive/FreudBBIC.htm http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adoption/archive/FreudBBIC.htm

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP

Some will assert that the views presented in this volume are so child-oriented as to neglect the needs and rights of the adults. In fact, this is not the case. There is nothing one-sided about our position, that the child’s interests should be the paramount consideration once, but not before, a child’s placement becomes the subject of official controversy.

Its other side is that the law, to accord with the continuity guideline, must safeguard the rights of any adults, serving as parents, to raise their children as they see fit, free of intervention by the state, and free of law-aided and law-abetted harassment by disappointed adult claimants. To say that a child’s ongoing relationship with a specific adult, the psychological parent, must not be interrupted, is also to say that this adult’s rights are protected against intrusion by the state on behalf of other adults.

As set out in this volume, then, a child’s placement should rest entirely on consideration for the child’s own inner situation and developmental needs. Simple as this rule sounds, there are circumstances which make it difficult to apply even with ample evidence in support of the child’s interests. The injunction disregards that laws are made by adults for the protection of adult rights.

Appendix F

Shared parenting laws on way out

By Caroline Overington, The Australian, October 19, 2009

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26228074-5013404,00.html

THE Rudd government is planning to roll back the controversial shared parenting law passed in the final term of the Howard government, enraging men’s groups, which say the laws have finally given them access to their children after separation.

Six inquiries into the shared parenting laws are now under way, which men’s groups have interpreted as a sure sign that change is under way, too.

In a message to supporters, Sue Price of the Men’s Rights Agency, has described the planned rollback as the “most sustained and concerted attack” on shared parenting that she has seen in 15 years.

Ms Price said the laws did no more than encourage “reasonable contact between perfectly good fathers and their children” and she is urging supporters to “convince the Rudd government that there are a million votes at stake” if they roll back the shared parenting changes.

“War has been declared and now is the time to protest the changes,” Ms Price said, adding that planned changes were an attempt to “deny children shared parenting” and “an attack on a child’s right to be loved and cared for by a dad on a shared-care, equal basis”.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in concert with the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, flagged a change to the law after a small child, Darcey Freeman, died after allegedly being thrown from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne earlier this year. Her father, Arthur Freeman, has been charged with murder. In a committal hearing, the court heard that the mother had been terrified of her former partner, and told neighbours and others that he was certain to kill one of her children.

Of the six inquiries into the law under way, the Family Court Violence Review, also known as the Chisholm report, for its chairman, former Family Court judge Professor Richard Chisholm, is likely to report to Mr McClelland first.

Submissions to the Chisholm inquiry closed on Friday. In one submission, the National Council for Children Post-Separation, which largely represents the interests of separated mothers, has examples of women forced into contact with violent partners, after those partners won the right to see their children in the Family Court.

The council says some men are approaching the court, asking for years-old parenting agreements to be modified so they can pay less child support. Under the Howard government reforms, men can pay less, in exchange for seeing their children more.

The submission says: “Parents are saying they don’t want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support.”

The submission also calls on the Family Court to consider the parenting roles played by each parent before separation, before deciding on shared or equal care after separation.”

Some parents abandon their spouse while pregnant and years later seek shared care when the child does not even know the parent,” the submission says.

“One nine-year-old boy who considered he already had a father, since his mother married his stepfather when he was a baby, was told he had to spend every second weekend with his biological father.

“If there is no existing emotional bond between a child and a parent, why should the court force one on a child who may have an emotional bond with a step-parent?”

More than 3500 parents have signed a petition calling for the changes to the shared parenting law.

A submission from men’s groups was not immediately available yesterday. The Shared Parenting Council says the six reviews of the law were placing “significant pressure” on the groups, which are “holding the line against a dismantling of the 2006 Family Law changes”.

Besides the Chisholm review, the Attorney-General has commissioned the University of South Australia, James Cook University and Monash University to investigate the impact of family violence during and after parental relationship breakdown. This review will be overseen by professor Thea Brown.

The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW is also conducting a review, as are the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of Sydney

References

[1] The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) officially formed in 1943 estimated that 21 million people (DPs) would need assistance. In 1945 there were 250,000 Jewish displaced persons registered in Europe By 1947 only 700,000 displaced persons remained in camps.  Fohrenwald was the last DP (refugee) camp to close in 1957.

[2] See historical references to ‘austerity’ period,.Pres H Truman Library, and the Washington Loan Agreement.

[3] The Children’s Rest Centre evolved into the Hampstead War Nurseries and then the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic.

[4] It was in 1947 that the American ‘National Assoc of Women Lawyers, began promoting ‘no-fault’ divorce to Bar Associations and State Governments. http://www.abanet.org/nawl/about/history.html

[5] Bowlby J  Cambridge educated psychiatrist and psychologist, served in the British Army Medical Corps during World War 2 and by the late 1940s he had became Deputy Director of the Tavistock Centre, Hampstead.

[6] Evidence Against Bowlby and Conclusion to the Attachment Debate http://www.aqabpsychology.co.uk/?q=node/29

[7] ‘Patterns of Attachment’,  1978.Parent-child dyad, ie pairing  [b 1913 – d 1999]

[8] Winnicott, 1951 essay “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena,”  Transactions that constitute love between two imperfect people. The imperfectly attentive mother who does a better job than the “perfect” one who risks stifling her child’s development as a separate being.

[9] Bowlby’s famous 1952 study for WHO (World Health Organisation). Gilder’s withering appraisal of state provided child care by referring to by Bowlby’s studies (see Maternal Care and Mental Health and Deprivation of Maternal Care (New York, 1966).

[10] Jeff Standen http://www.jeffstanden.net/Davenport%20excerpts.htm

[11] “The Importance of Sibling Relationships in Psychoanalysis,” by Prophecy Coles. Reading, pp 73 -75, regarding sibling relationships there are echoes of the latent elements found in PAS.

[12] Misha Defonseca http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misha:_A_M%C3%A9moire_of_the_Holocaust_Years

[13] ‘Attachment, Deprivation, and Privation: Jarmila Koluchova’ http://www.aqabpsychology.co.uk/?q=node/27

[14] Feral children http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child

[15] ‘Infants without Families’, by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, 1943.

[16] ‘Applying the guidelines of Beyond the Best Interests of the Child’ by Martin Buxton MD. Yale University

Dec 1976 http://www.springerlink.com/content/l0k63x12210n867k/

[17] A detailed critique of Freud’s book in; “Above and Beyond The Best Interests of The Child––An Inquiry Into The Relationship Between Social Science and Social Action.” Law and Society Review (1974). Cited in “Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Residence” http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/legcon_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/family_law/submissions/sub94_att.pdf

[18] Yuri.Joakimidis, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MensIssuesOnline/message/11815?var=1 See also ‘Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttal Presumption of Joint Residence http://www.fatherhood.org.au/resources/back-to-the-best-interests-of-the-child.pdf

[19] “Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Residence” http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/legcon_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/family_law/submissions/sub94_att.pdf

[20] News-Medical in Child Health News reports, 25 May 2004, http://www.news-medical.net/?id=_87

[21] Aichhorn was an advocate of the idea that there was a distinction between manifest and latent delinquency, and believed that arrested development in youth was a precursor to antisocial behaviour. He also believed that this situation was caused by disturbances in early child-parent relationships.

[22] An American developmental psychologist known for her work in early emotional attachment.

[23] A trenchant criticism of the literature on separation by O’Connor (1956) was similarly ignored by the Freudian camp. “Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Residence.”

[24] “Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Residence” http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/legcon_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/family_law/submissions/sub94_att.pdf

[25] http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-177412332/remembering-barbara-wootton-contribution.html

[26] Wootton is not widely known or favoured in North America perhaps because of her left wing politics, TUC connections, her work for the Fabian society and that she considered herself as a ‘conscientous objector’ during WW2. http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0271%2FGCPP%20Wootton

[27] George F. Gilder (b 1939), an American writer, techno-utopian intellectual, with close links to Republican Presidents and Party. He co-founded of the Discovery Institute. He has written many books including ‘Sexual Suicide’ 1973 and a 1981 bestseller ‘Wealth and Poverty’, and is ardent anti-feminist and critic of government welfare policies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gilder

[28] Australian Institute of Family Studies http://www.aifs.gov.au/conferences/aifs6/burbidge.html

[29] ‘Towards a History of the Self Reliant Family In Australia’, Andrew Burbidge Australian Institute of Family Studies http://www.aifs.gov.au/conferences/aifs6/burbidge.html

[30] “Back to the Best Interests of the Child – Towards a Rebuttable Presumption of Joint Residence” http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/legcon_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/family_law/submissions/sub94_att.pdf

[31] Lady Butler-Sloss Pres. Family Division, speech at Regents Park Conference, Nov 2001

[32] ‘Violence and the invisible sex’ http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/violence-and-invisible-sex

[33] New Zealand, to help fund its social policies, has sold its entire Air Force and all of its warships capable of engaging an enemy.

[34] Joint Parenting Assoc. http://www.jointparenting.org/royal_drawing_of_lots.htm

[35] The CRB was established under Part V of the Police Act 1997. It is now mandatory in the recruitment process that all candidates whether paid of volunteers apply for and receive clearance via a disclosure certificate.

[36] “The current moral alarm over child sexual abuse masks statistical realities”, Bettina Arndt, Sydney Morning Herald, April 15, 2002 http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=1890 See also the Cleveland Inquiry and the writings of Bea Campbell into alleged satanic sexual rituals.

[37] Moral Panic Changing concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America (Yale University Press, 1998) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300073879/onlineopinion/102-3645139-6405704

[38] ‘Divorce Matters’,  by Jacqueline Reynolds circa 1984. (co-authored by High Court Judge Roger Ormrod).

[39] See “Punishing parents”, by Frank Furedi, Spiked, 2004. http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CA5D0.htm. Author of “Where have All The Intellectuals Gone ? Confronting 21st Century Philistinism” (2005), and “Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right” (pub 2005).

[40] BCC 29th April 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8022861.stm

[41] ‘Nursery paedophile Vanessa George’ By Alastair Jamieson, Daily Telegraph, 4th Oct 2009.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/6258910/Nursery-paedophile-Vanessa-George-Ill-be-out-in-two-years.html

[42] Third woman arrested in Facebook paedophile probe”, Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1219897/Nursery-paedophile-admits-crimes-disgusting-vile-refuses-victims-Vanessa-George-Little-Teds-nursery-colin-Blanchard-Angela-Allen.html see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1219897/Nursery-paedophile-admits-crimes-disgusting-vile-refuses-victims-Vanessa-George-Little-Teds-nursery-colin-Blanchard-Angela-Allen.html#ixzz0W1dCtKJ0

[43] For example; ‘Problems in the Assessment and Management of Munchausen by Proxy Abuse’, Neale, Bools, & Meadow, R. (1991) Children and Society, 5 (4): 324-333, ‘Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: Bools, Neale & Meadow, R. (1994), a study of psychopathology’, Child Abuse and Neglect 18: 773-788, 1994,

and ‘Co-morbidity associated with fabricated illness ‘,Bools, C., Neale, B. & Meadow, R. (1992).

[44] BBC TV News, 28/10/1997, and on Ch 4 News, women recorded trying to kill (suffocate) their babies in hospital wards; 34 out of 39 cautioned.

[45] Mrs Clark was jailed for life in 1999 for smothering her boys, but her conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2003. Sir Roy Meadow who gave the forensic evidence was censured by the appeal court in 2003 and has retired. Dr. Southall has had to fight a series of court and GMC hearings from 2004 to 2008.

[46] The 1839 Custody of Infants Act, allowed a wife who was separated from her husband to petition the court and, provided she was ‘of good character’, to gain access to those children still under seven years of age during the father’s lifetime. See also the Custody of Infants Act 1873 and Guardianship of Infants Act 1886.

[47] “Shared parent laws for rethink” By Caroline Overington The Australian, July 24, 2009

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25826887-5013871,00.html

[48] Writing about the introduction of gender neutral wording in Colorado’s laws 1966 – 76; ‘Legal Change and Child Custody Awards’, Jessica Pearson, University of Denver 1982 http://jfi.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/1/5

Anna Freud: Part 2 – ‘Physician, heal thyself’

By Robert Whiston FRSA, 01 November 2009

Anna Freud was born towards the close of 1895 and Emeritus Professor of Psychology Doug Davis in his book “Lost Girl” intimately describes her early years and the problems she experienced in her adolescence.[1]

By 1919 (aged 25), Anna underwent more than a year of analysis by her father to treat what some have described as her jealousy, depression and masochistic tendencies. It has been interpreted from Sigmund Freud writings that he beat Anna as part of the therapy. However, this approach appears not to have worked for Anna was later to write in 1923 a paper which some see as an autobiographical recounting of her own experiences, (“The Relation of Beating Phantasies to a Day Dream” ) ‘My father is beating the child whom I hate.” [2]

Davis and Prof. Patrick Mahoney (University of Montreal) both independently comment on her anorexia (an eating disorder) during her teenage years and of her latent-homosexuality. Mahoney is best known for his meticulous work in dissecting Sigmund Freud’s personality (see the “Rat Manhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Man).

They and other authors contend that Anna Freud developed in early adolescence a severe psychopathology, consisting of sado-masochistic fantasies accompanied by compulsive masturbation, an eating disorder, and depression. They speculate as to its possibly iatrogenic nature, namely a complication induced in a patient by a physician’s activity or therapy.

However it has to be recalled that Sigmund and Martha Freud had 6 children and in her first years of life we read in “Guide to Psychoanalytic Developmental Theories” (by Joseph Palombo, Barry Koch and Harold Bendicsen) that:

“ …  Anna felt abandoned by her father [due to his work] and neglected by her mother who did not breast feed Anna as she had done with her other children. In fact, she took a holiday away from the family for several months shortly after Anna’s birth.”

Many speculate that her transition from a teenager lacking self-esteem and enduring inner demons (1919 – 1922) to unchallenged guardian of her father’s legacy (circa 1939) is in no small part due to her psychological dependency on her father, which some have described, though perhaps not meant in a sexual context,  as ‘incestuous’.[3]

Freud established himself – or disestablished himself – as a family therapist in that unique act of wild analysis when he took his own daughter into an impossible and incestuous treatment.

It was during the 1920s that Anna Freud began volunteer work at the Baumgarten Home which cared for Jewish children that were orphaned or made homeless by the World War I. Here she met some of the early psychoanalytic pioneers, Siegfried Bernfeld, Willi Hoffer, both ardent Jewish socialists and August Aichhorn. [4]

August Aichhorn has to be considered one of the prime founder of psychoanalytic education and his seminal work with disadvantaged youth is still cited today (“Wayward Youth” (1925), translated into English in 1935). [5]

Advancement in a ‘science’ still in its infancy might be adjudged relatively easy and so it was that from 1927 to 1934 Anna Freud became General Secretary of the fledgling International Psychoanalytical Association. Then, in 1935 Anna became director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute. [6]

It was through such positions she could build up contacts and the networks with the early pioneers and who would come to serve her well later in London and then America.

‘Red’ Vienna

Notwithstanding her personality defects Anna Freud helped to establish the Hietzing School, in 1927, with money provided by Dorothy Burlingham and Eva Rosenfeld. [7] Aichhorn’s work, which emphasised the impact of early deprivation and the need to take into account any paucity in emotional attachment when working with young delinquents greatly influenced Anna Freud in setting up the Hietzing School.

The school catered for about twenty pupils and the children tended to come from households predisposed to psychoanalysis, understand it or to themselves be ‘in analyses.[8]

Ten years later (1937), Anna Freud was involved with the Jackson Nursery aimed at the poor and needy in Vienna and funded this time by an Edith Banfield Jackson, an American philanthropist. Jackson had entered the Freud’s sphere in January of 1930, at the age of 35 when she had begun her psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud (case 36). Her letters, especially to her sister Helen Jackson, are the principal source in her case. [9]

Both the 1927 and the 1937 initiatives and their funders were to prove useful American entrees for Freud’s later work, i.e. post 1945.

In particular the Jackson Nursery was an experiment in the application of psychoanalytic principles to the care of the young child combined with meticulous note taking of every nuance displayed.

Edith Jackson was to later champion the ‘rooming-in’ plan which allowed parents and newborns to be together. The Jackson Nursery format was therefore the precursor of daycare centres that are now found all across America.

Unfortunately, after only a few months of operation the nursery had to close with the rise of fascism in Europe and the annexation of Austria into the German Reich.

At this point (1938) Anna Freud flees Austria for England and is extensively referenced as “throwing herself into her work” [10] and of “recognising the need to provide shelters for orphans and children and their families who were political refugees from concentration camps, or made homeless by the war”.

Apparently, “she planned a temporary wartime shelter for children” which were later extended to all children who suffered as the result of war conditions, irrespective of nationality, race or religion and as “the scale of the difficulties facing children in the cities became apparent, these plans soon began to grow.” [11] A reading of the various citations gives the impression that throughout 1940 she is ministering to dozens if not hundreds of children of the Blitz.

With the death of her father and the outbreak of World War II in 1939, it is understandable that as a distraction Anna should throw herself into her work but the citations about the provision of shelters is ambiguous. Air raid or bomb shelters, i.e. ‘Anderson Shelters’, were provided free of charge by the government to the working class, the poor and any one earning less than £250 per annum. It is difficult to see her providing Anderson shelters which offered only minimal protection against bomb bursts or of paying for them to be installed in peoples’ back gardens. [12] Therefore, ‘shelters’ in this instance must mean refuges, respites, sanctuaries, etc.

The first of the Children’s Rest Centres, to which these shelters must refer, was not opened until Jan 1941 and the concentrating bombing known as ‘the Blitz’ ended soon after, in May 1941.[13] Three such rest centres were set up by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham but opened only with the financial support from the American Foster Parents’ Plan for War Children (AFPPWC). It is probably this organisation and the co-funding by the British War Relief Society, which we must thank for the extending of Freud’s concern to ‘all’ children.

Small Numbers

The first of the what to be later known as the Hampstead War Nurseries or Children’s Rest Centre was in Wedderburn Road,  London and most of the 10 – 12 children came with their mothers from the East End of London. It has been calculated by the Anna Freud Centre that in all only 191 children were clients of Children’s Rest Centre throughout the war years.[14]

A warship anchored close to shore taking on refugees

It is at this point that a contemporary if not earlier equivalent to managing refugee children has to be considered and compared. The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) saw not a few hundred child refugees cared for but thousands. The actual numbers of the children who came to Britain, one of several nations (including France, Mexico and Russia), organising passage and relief on a massive scale vary according to sources but the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief conservatively puts the figure at 3,840 children.

The children arrived traumatised in Britain aboard several ships which had been threatened with or actually experienced attack from planes and warships, together with 80 teachers, 120 auxiliaries and 15 catholic priests.

The converted liner SS Habana (10,500 tons)

Six hundred children alone came on 21 May 1937 aboard an old converted liner, SS Habana, hired for the risky trip from Bilbao to Southampton.

Those risks were very real and very present. The Habana had to be escorted as she left port and across the Bay of Biscay by two Royal Navy
warships, the battle cruiser ‘HMS Royal
Oak’ and the destroyer “HMS Forester”
waiting a few miles offshore.

Right:  The battle cruiser ‘HMS Royal Oak’ (29,000 tons) in command of convoys protecting merchant shipping leaving ‘Western Approaches’ for the Bay of Biscay, along the Spanish coast and into the Mediterranean.

Guernica after the raid

The exodus of the innocent flowed from the indiscriminate daylight bombing and wholesale destruction of a wholly non-military target – Guernica. The Luftwaffe onslaught against mainly women and children in Guernica and the 20,000 shells that rained down on Bilbao in the Basque region of northern Spain gave the 20th century its first taste of children as war refugees.

The academic press is littered with accolades extolling Anna Freud’s vision and how her genius encompassed the study and understanding of children and adults, spanning the gap between theory and practice. [15] But nothing is said of the ordinary men and women who did the same job 4 years earlier with the Basque children refugees.

These volunteers did not enjoy local, national or generous overseas funding yet they managed to successfully fill the gap between theory and practice for these traumatised children. The organising committee depended on public donations, trade union support and the Co-operative Societies; everything was done on a shoestring. The Women’s Co-operative Guild together with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and the Quakers raised the initial money to establish three homes for the Basque children.

Scale Discrepancies

Freud may have pioneered methodical note taking and applied her knowledge of child psychoanalysis but the outcomes for most Spanish refugee children in what were called ‘colonies’ was wholly remarkable.

Once disembarked the children were dispersed in groups to one of 94 such colonies. One such colony was ‘Aldridge Lodge’ in Walsall (8 miles north of Birmingham) run by John Whiston and his wife Louise (helped at the weekends by their three grown up sons).[16]

A crowed deck. Just before sailing on Thursday night another attack saw bombs fall in the water all around the Habana but none hit the ship.

When the second and third of the Children’s Rest Centres, were all working at capacity in 1941, staff cared for 120 children who were aged between 10 days old and 6 years old.

Given the various professional bodies interested, e.g. medical, psychological and nursing, plus the training and education course laid on using the children as catalysts for better understandings, adults outnumbered children. The ratio at the Basque colonies was the inverse, i.e. children outnumbered adults.

Between them Anna and Dorothy supervised the two London centres dealing with children of all races and religions and supervised the training of approximately 20 young women for work within the centres.

Without the American Foster Parents’ Plan increasing their funding in 1941 the number of children, mostly babies and infants, at the Children’s Rest Centres would not have risen above 30.

Meanwhile Alice Goldberger, located at the third centre (New Barn, Essex), looked after about 30 evacuee children aged between 3 and 6 years. Here most of the staff and workers were refugees from Nazi oppression from Europe (cf. Aldridge Lodge with around 50; no support workers or professionals. Appendix A). New Barn was closed in 1946.

As a touché to Albert J. Solnit reverential portrayal of Anna Freud, she was not alone nor a pioneer in making a crucial difference to children at “high risk”, i.e. of having their physical, emotional and intellectual well-being blighted by poverty, war, physical handicaps, family death and/or family breakdown.

Some Basque children were already orphans and some went back to Spain only to find their fathers had been executed or imprisoned by Franco.

Age Range

Two significant differences emerge between Freud’s work and that of the volunteers looking after the Basque children; one was cultural and the other was age range. Freud’s subjects tended to be either babies and / or toddlers whereas the volunteers had to cope with adolescent and teenagers (most aged 4 to 14 years) which, even in ideal circumstances, tend to be far more troublesome than babies or toddlers (see below “Arriving at Birmingham Station”).

Other differences are more obvious. Firstly, the Basque children could speak no English unlike Freud’s subjects. Secondly, Freud’s subjects were in their home land, not in a foreign land knowing no one and separated from their relatives (Freud ensured that the mothers of the children visited whenever they could).

‘Attachment theory’ and Bowlby’s writings and the dangers of fatherless parenting were still unknown at this time, certainly to the general public. Freud at the time, it has to be recalled, maintained that fathers posed a danger to their own infants.

It is interesting, therefore, to contrast the role of the many remarkable people like John Whiston who, contrary to Freud’s theory, became a much loved father-figure to the Basque children assigned to his care at Aldridge Lodge; a situation probably repeated in the other 93 ‘colonies’.

The ‘Psychological Parent’ is Invented

Writing in 1942, Freud & Burlingham first formulated a fourfold strategy for the nurseries:

  1. To repair damage already caused by war conditions to the bodily and mental health of children.
  2. To prevent further harm being done to the children.
  3. To do research on the essential psychological needs of children.
  4. To instruct people interested in the forms of education based on psychological knowledge of the child and generally to work out a pattern of nursery life which can serve as a model for peace-time education in spite of the conditions of war.

To compensate for situations where there was no mother for the children to gravitate towards or a lack of interest shown by a mother in a child, the concept of a ‘psychological parent’ evolved (see Appendix C). The habit of meticulous note taking aided this process and as we shall see in Part 3 this was to have a catastrophic effect for the next generation of children.

Systemising a process – turning it into what might today be called ‘a programme’ – and labelling different stages of child development lent an air of authority to her work and bestowed her train of thought with a degree of legitimacy it may not have deserved. Packaging a concept, with the Freud brand name, made it eminently portable and suitable for the training of others.

There is no uniformity in the descriptions available to the general public of the how, or indeed, what the work at the Hampstead War Nurseries involved. While some sources refer to them as caring in a general way, for children separated from their mothers there is a dearth of recorded symptoms and treated. One source specifies that they were children of single-parent (unmarried ?) families. [17]

War time conditions did not always make smooth or regular contact by parents possible. As a result children became distressed when their parent-mother (usually) failed to show up.

Many of the familiar difficulties of traumatised and institutionalised children began to be apparent at this point, and those parent-fathers who have ‘contact’ arrangements with their children after a divorce will be aware of the symptoms and flash point this represents.

Despite their best endeavours a significant number of Freud’s children showed a delay in their development in terms of wetting and soiling, aggressive behaviour and tantrums or emotional withdrawal and self-stimulation (e.g. head-banging). This was found to also be the case in the early weeks for those at Aldridge Lodge.

The academically inclined Freud had to recognise that, while she was catering to the physical and intellectual needs of the children – often in ways that were ‘superior’ to home life – it was the ordinary and mundane ‘emotional’ needs of the child that were most likely to suffer in a residential setting.

This was defined as ‘the attachment needs’ of the child – and yet their subsequent developments of action plans to overcome this barrier were more or less unsatisfactory within the residential setting (see Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, 1943).

It was at the Hampstead War Nurseries that children separated from their parents were given foster care in the form of a ‘psychological parent’.[18] By this means Freud intended to help children form what is now termed familial ‘attachments’ by providing continuity of relationships with helpers while still “encouraging mothers to visit as often as possible.” [19]

Freud and Burlingham reasoned that it might prove beneficial if they reorganised the nursery population into ‘artificial families’ of 4 or 5 children and one “mother.” These ‘artificial families’ were formed according to the preferences of the staff and the young children (similar to the ‘Senoritas’ who came over with the Basque children) and immediately Freud and Burlingham saw how beneficial this was to the children. The hitherto suppressed need for individual attachment erupted, and in the course of one week all six families were completely and firmly established” (A. Freud, 1973a, p 220).

With the development of positive relationships to carers, children were quickly able to overcome developmental delays (such as in relation to feeding or sleeping) and developed an emotional “aliveness” that is so often absent in institutionalised children.

The developmental delays in relation to feeding or sleeping, which had previously been a feature of the children, were quickly erased and replaced with “an emotional “aliveness” that is so often absent in institutionalised children.” [20]

Dichotomy

Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham published “Young Children in War-time” (1943), which was a review of one years work in a residential war nursery, together with “Infants without Families” which states the case for and against residential care.

It is at this juncture that we see a distinct and critical variation emerge. Until now the child patients of Freud have been younger than the Basque children, both group shave been traumatised by war, but the Basque children come from traditional two parent families and it is not at al clear if the children at Hampstead War Nurseries had two, one or no parents.

It also becomes clear that one group is being institutionalised while the other is in temporary family accommodation, living with their friends and peers, with props from an earlier and happier life.

In a review by H Sheeham-Dare of ‘Infants without Families’ it is made clear that in answer to the question “Does the institution child develop differently from the child brought up in a family?”, the verdict is ‘yes’. [21] In the first chapter we learn that:

“Superficial observation of children of this kind leaves a conflicting picture. They resemble, so far as outward appearances are concerned, children of middle-class families: they are well developed physically, properly nourished, decently dressed, have acquired clean habits and decent table manners, and can adapt themselves to rules and regulations. So far as character development is concerned, they often prove … not far above the standard of destitute or neglect….”

As a sentimental footnote to her work acclamations are frequently found bearing witness to her integrity and her research work. Reports are legion of how she kept in touch with former children – sending some of them cards and presents on their birthday etc – as if this further validated her work and reinforced her sincerity.

It is perfectly reasonable to suppose that those volunteer looking after the Basque refugees were similarly placed and experienced the same positive exchanges and feedback.

This period saw Anna Freud’s inner-self and career develop in unexpected ways. She moved away from her father’s classical position, which had focused primarily on the unconscious “Id” and began to favour more the importance of the “Ego”. This was where she saw the real inner struggle; the constant struggles and conflicts it experienced and the need to answer contradicting wishes, and balancing desires, values and demands of reality.

As a result her 1940s papers hypothesised what was in “the child’s best interests” using as a base her observations of very young children at thee Hampstead War Nurseries.

The Bulldogs Bank Study

In Part 3 we shall see the more traumatised side of children as we trace developments at the Bulldogs Bank study and the children from Tereisenstadt.

One again we shall see how Freud, in common with John Whiston and his wife Louise, found the traumatised children’s behaviour at first manic and destructive, even frightening.

However, within a short time both groups had, in varying degrees, settled and their hostility or anger at the world for disrupting their world and, in the case of the Basques, their fear of any aeroplane they heard lessened into normality.

The children developed an intense bond with one another which Freud also refers to in her study of Tereisenstadt children (see Freud, Part 3).

The ‘outcomes’, i.e. life chances, 10 and 20 years downstream for those at Aldridge Lodge proved to be excellent. What the outcomes were for Freud’s group is not easily ascertained.

Finally, the question posed in Part 1 (‘Anna Freud – her secret failure’), regarding why Anna Freud was so opposed to fathers participating in their children’s lives has been answered to a large degree in the opening paragraphs of this section (Part 2).

However, in Part 3 we will also see more reasons and the impact on fathers fighting for joint custody, of those demons already mentioned.

Appendix A

Aldridge Lodge

Extract from: “Children who fled Franco’s Spanish fascists to a sanctuary in Walsall in the thirties”

Black Country Bugle, May 13th 2004

http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/blackcountrybugle-news/displayarticle.asp?id=72658

“ …. Aldridge Lodge was a handsome mansion just off Bosty Lane. Over the years, it had been the comfortable residence of a number of well-to-do gentlemen, including, in 1851, the Rev. T.B. Adams, and in the late nineteenth century Frederick F. Clarke esq. However, it was now turned over to be a haven for around fifty of the Basque children, who are pictured in the postcard on the left, and local craftsmen helped to renovate the buildings.”

“ . .. . they did their utmost to make the children feel at home – despite the fact that none of them could speak Spanish, either! However, the children were accompanied by several “Senoritas”, who helped to overcome the language barriers and were invaluable for advice on the children’s food, especially when the arrival on the dinner table of baked beans – which the children had never seen before – caused much consternation!

Soon, the children had settled into Aldridge Lodge, learning English and making friends with locals, often staying with them in their homes. The Whistons organised games and trips to entertain them, and many Walsall people contributed towards their upkeep, ranging from large sums from sympathetic trade unions to pennies from local children.”

Appendix B

USS Oklahoma (BB-37), embarks US refugees at Bilbao, 1936

The US government moved quickly to extricate it citizens and avoid ‘entanglement’ in another European war.

Left: The USS Oklahoma (BB-37), (27,500 Tons) was diverted to Bilbao in 1936 (nine months before the Habana sailed).

Below: Crewmen holding evacuated children, as refugees are embarked at Bilboa, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, August 1936.

These men have been identified as (from left to right): Lloyd A. Payne (possibly), Chief Petty Officer Fuchs, (and Slajus, the dog).

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h50000/h50969.jpg
and
http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/013758.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/37c.htm&usg=__0cn2v9g3_MWmizmW8Q1bPL3BUlQ=&h=610&w=740&sz=78&hl=en&start=1&itbs=1&tbnid=St-dfiSUK

Appendix C

Court hands sisters over to mother’s lesbian lover

By Nick Britten, Daily Telegraph, (Filed: 07/04/2006)

[This case was later overturned – Ed]

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/07/nlesbi

an07.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/04/07/ixhome.html

Two young sisters at the centre of a bitter custody battle were taken from their biological mother yesterday and sent to live with her former lesbian lover following a landmark court ruling.

The Court of Appeal ruled that although the natural mother had blood ties to the girls, that would no longer be deemed an advantage when both parties had brought the children up.

Because of their joint involvement they might both be considered the “natural parent”, Lord Justice Thorpe said. The girls would be unable to distinguish between them on biological grounds.

The ruling marks a shift from the traditional view that the biological parent holds an advantage in custody battles.

The judge said: “We have moved into a world where norms that seemed safe 20 or more years ago no longer run. In the eyes of the child, the natural parent may be a non-biological parent who, by virtue of long settled care, has become the psychological parent.”

. . . . Lord Justice Thorpe, dismissing the appeal, said that same-sex partners should have the same rights as estranged heterosexual couples, and that the child’s views on which partner was the psychological parent should be considered.

References

[1] ‘Lost Girl’ by Doug Davis, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Haverford College  http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/annafreud.losing.html

[2] Blass, Rachel B. (1993). “A rereading of Anna Freud’s “Beating fantasies and daydreams.” See also “Reading Freud: a chronological exploration of Freud’s writings” By Jean-Michel Quinodoz” http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9mYrgebP-OMC&pg=PA172&lpg=PA172&dq=Beating+fantasies+and+daydreams&source=bl&ots=V9i-ew9t0c&sig=g83X1ZGeahc_-ck9nfvLWUxiWu4&hl=en&ei=4yHmSumTH-WNjAeW65ChBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CCAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Beating%20fantasies%20and%20daydreams&f=false

[3] Mahoney, P. (1992). “Freud as family therapist: Reflections”, see ‘Freud and the history of psychoanalysis’. http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=jaa.021.0433a and http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/annafreud.losing.html

[4] Linda Woolf, Ph.D., Assoc Prof of Psychology at Webster University, offers a different and positive view of Anna Freud in her notes to students. http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/annafreud.html

[5] The first psychoanalytic account of residential care for young people with emotional and behavioural disturbances.

[6] Anna Freud Centre  http://www.annafreudcentre.org/anna_freud.htm

[7] Edith Banfield Jackson donated $5,000 per year to establish a nursery school. Despite her wish for an intimate relationship with a man, Edith Jackson never married. Source: American Journal of Psychiatry http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/155/2/163

[8] Hietzing Schule.  http://www.answers.com/topic/hietzing-schule-burlingham-rosenfeld-school

[9] Edith Banfield Jackson. Also made philanthropic donations to Sigmund Freud http://www.labmeeting.com/paper/25308488/lynn-2003-freud’s-psychoanalysis-of-edith-banfield-jackson-1930-1936

[10] Encyclopaedia Britannica, Anna Freud: the Hampstead War Nurseries (941) http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/25975109/Anna-Freud-gli-asili-di-Hampstead-ai-tempi-della-guerra-e-il-ruolo-dellosservazione-infantile-in-psicoanalisi

[11] This must reflect American authorship as within the British context the need to specify race or religion when detailing relief for refugee children is superfluous.

[12] Unlike continental Europe there is not a tradition of cellar building in England. The confusion may lie in the Americanised use of the word ‘shelter’.

[13] Thereafter, London and other cities were routinely bombed but not systematically – the Luftwaffe having lost air supremacy over England by the Spring of 1941.

[14] Dr. Inge Pretorius, Anna Freud Centre http://www.annafreudcentre.org/war_nurseries3.htm

[15] A Legacy: Anna Freud’s Views on Childhood and Development by Albert J. Solnit,  MD, Yale Child Study Center. http://www.springerlink.com/content/m36010251171u745/

[16] The other two were at Avoncroft and Elford.

[17] Freud Museum London http://www.freud.org.uk/education/topic/40053/anna-freud/

[18] ‘War’s long-term effects’, http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/war/effects.aspx

[19] Jewish Women’s Archive http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/freud-anna

[20] Anna Freud Centre http://www.annafreudcentre.org/war_nurseries4.htm

[21] Infants without Families’ http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=IJP.026.0078A

Anna Freud: Part 1 – ‘Her secret failure’

By Robert Whiston FRSA, Sept 2009

Anna Freud’s - 80th Birthday - Photo by Larry Wangh, Ph.D - Anna Freud's contributions to the literature of child care, written in collaboration with Dorothy Burlingham and others, revolutionised the judicial approach to custody.

Anna Freud’s – 80th Birthday – Photo by Larry Wangh, Ph.D – Anna Freud’s contributions to the literature of child care, written in collaboration with Dorothy Burlingham and others, revolutionised the judicial approach to custody.

Anna Freud is arguably best known for two assets, one being the daughter of Sigmund Freud and secondly the author of a book whose title has like no other passed into a legal mantra.

With the death of her father, Sigmund in 1939, she inherited his mantle as acknowledged leader of the psycho-analytic world movement and the influence it commanded.

The book is, of course, in “Beyond the Best Interest of the Child” which was written in 1973 with co-authors Solnit and Goldstein. [1] This was followed by two other books “Before the Best Interests of the Child” (1979), and “In the Best Interests of the Child (1986).

All three books were highly influential during the 1970’s and 1980s which was a period when custody laws were being revised. Her pre-existing high profile in the psycho-analysis sphere meant that her books had a hitherto unimagined influence over almost half the population of Britain – fathers.

But how many realise that her fame and legendary status is premised on a failure ?

Miss Dorothy Burlingham-Tiffany, a life long close relationship, friend and associate of Miss Anna Freud - Photos by Larry Wangh, Ph.D

Miss Dorothy Burlingham-Tiffany, a life long close relationship, friend and associate of Miss Anna Freud – Photos by Larry Wangh, Ph.D

It was in 1925 that Anna Freud met Dorothy Burlingham-Tiffany (b 1891, d 1979), the daughter of the American millionaire family, Tiffany. [2] She had recently divorced her husband and had journeyed to Vienna to seek Freud’s psycho-analytical skills for her four children (two boys and two girls). [3] Burlingham was convinced one or more of her children were suffering from depression and or psychosomatic illnesses. The psycho-analysis and treatment was continued in London when the Freuds fled Austria in 1938 to avoid Nazi persecution.

For the next 40 years Burlingham’s four children were effectively Anna Freud’s guinea pigs but the world would not know for many decades that her treatment of the Burlingham children was an utter disaster.

The measure of its lethality can be gauged by the alcoholism and overdoses it induced and the deliberate suicide of one of the children, ‘Mabbie’, in Anna Freud’s own home in 1974. [4] Exactly what went on during the sessions of analysis with the children remains unclear and we shall probably never know. [5]

We do know from a BBC documentary that both Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham were concerned that the eldest son, Robert Burlingham, Jr. would develop into a homosexual. Robert, later to become a cello player, architect and city planner, reportedly committed suicide in 1970 aged just 55. [6] Whether this was related to depression or the unsuccessful and unremitting treatment Robert received is open to speculation.

What is beyond question is that Robert Burlingham Jnr. never saw his child John Michael Burlingham, who alternatingly spent his youth in London with his grandmother, Dorothy, or at school and college in America. He appears never to have seen or worried about his father, Robert Burlingham Jnr. But what is also beyond dispute is that John Michael recounts in his book how the actual death of his father left him with a void and a sudden sense of hollowness that he was powerless to fill. [7]

It is a paradox that Freud and Burlingham should have obsessed about Robert’s perceived propensity towards homosexual tendencies, given that their sexual orientation appears anything but heterosexual.

Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham are variously described as ‘close and intimate’ friends; and having a deep and abiding friendship; being lifelong friends; living together; life partners; lifelong companions; or even ‘partners’. [8]

In the modern vernacular we have to conclude they were lesbians – as were not a few of the early Suffragettes.[9]

Blissfully unaware of the protracted nature of this core experiment’s disaster (which was kept a closely guarded secret for over 30 years), academia and the judiciary began embracing the theories on the basis it was were fully tested and functional.

Anna Freud and the school of thought that gathered around her maintained that any post–divorce contact between parents was inherently confrontational, dangerous and/or violent. Awarding sole custody to mothers achieved the twin ambitions of limiting a father’s access to his children and restricting any dangerous confrontational scenes with his former wife.

This view was in evidence in the life of Robert Burlingham, Jr. and in Freud’s wartime work with children affected by the Blitz (Hampstead Nurseries).

The lingering question has to be why was Anna Freud was so opposed to fathers participating in their children’s lives ?

Research from the 1930s had already shown that households without a father had pathologies unknown to normal families. American film of the time spoke of “juvenile delinquents”, a term new to English audiences.

Even Quaker Joseph Rowntree (born 1834), [10] and William Booth (born 1829), who founded the Salvation Army could see fundamental difference between intact and fatherless families.

At a time when Roman & Haddad, were arguing in ‘The Disposable Parent’ (1978), that joint residence was the best post-divorce arrangement and that courts should begin with a rebuttable presumption of joint residence, Anna Freud’s uniquely influential position undermined them. Her books (1973 – 1986), beginning with ‘Beyond the Best Interest of the Child’ effectively cut the ground from underneath those who saw fathers as an asset in post-divorce families.

The trend in Britain of joint custody [11] that had been growing unseen during the 1970s and 1980s was only terminated by Act of parliament in 1991. [12]

END

References

[1] Alber J. Solnit, and Joseph Goldstein

[2] Tiffany jewellery, luxury goods and perfumes.

[3] Robert Jnr and Michael, the two girls Mary and Katrina were nicknamed Mabbie and Tinky respectively

[4] BBC documentary ‘The Century of Self’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/century_of_the_self.shtml

[5] ‘Did Anna Freud’s teaching help make Marilyn suicidal?’, by Claudia Joseph, 24 March 2002 . It also suggests that Freud’s theories contributed to the death of Tiffany heiress Mabbie Burlingham who took an overdose in Freud’s London home.“ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/did-anna-freuds-teaching-help-make-marilyn-suicidal-655202.html

[6] See BBC documentary ‘The Century of Self’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/century_of_the_self.shtml

[7] “Behind Glass: A Biography of Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham”, by John Michael Burlingham,

[8] See http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/freud_a.html The Independent, The Guardian etc

[9] “The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement”, Melanier Phillips, 2003.

[10] In 1863 he produced a statistical study on the links between crime and poverty. Two years later he published a second study, ‘Pauperism in England and Wales’. See also ‘Poverty, A Study of Town Life’, and ‘The Temperance Problem and Social Reform’ (1900),

[11] See ‘Twenty Wasted Years’ R Whiston http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/5/ and http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/12/

[12] Children Act 1989, enacted 1991.