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Are the wheels coming off Jenn McIntosh PhD? - The Special issue on attachment : Overreaching theory and data

Article - PART ONE and PART TWO


Pamela S. Ludolph

The Family Court Review Special Issue edited by McIntosh focused on the views of traditional attachment theorists, neglecting to interview more progressive thinkers or put many thought-provoking questions to the traditionalists. The advances in attachment research in the last half century were little acknowledged. Among the unexplored research findings were the discovery that early attachment status can change, often as a result of negative life events; that maternal deprivation and other early losses are recoverable; and that infants do not require one primary caregiver to thrive. The notion that young children should not have overnight stays with their fathers was presented as fact, when little convincing research exists on the question.

Key Points for Family Court Community:

The Family Court Review Special Issue presented the views of traditional attachment theorists.
More contemporary views of attachment were not presented in a balanced way.
Among the ideas supported by current attachment research that were insufficiently addressed are:

Early attachment does not uniquely determine later functioning.
Early losses are generally recoverable.
Infants and young children form multiple attachments and generally are attached to both their mothers and

Current research is sparse and provides no convincing support for the idea that young children should have little or no overnight time with their fathers.

Keywords: attachment; young children; multiple attachments; overnight care; shared time; divorce; child custdy

The July 2011 Special Issue of Family Court Review focuses on attachment theory, a rich and
significant body of knowledge that is more than worthy of careful attention. The central idea of
attachment theory, that early sensitive care is of great importance to children, has by now been well
supported, and its implications for divorce are certainly of interest. The Special Issues guest editor
whetted the readers appetite by promising a kind of attachment reconnaissance mission (McIntosh,
2011, p. 219), with challenging questions and an engaging style. The guest editor settled on a format
for the issue that presented eight interviews with well-known attachment theorists, adding two
conventional journal articles, and an introduction that both describes her thinking in putting the
Special Issue together and summarizes the views of the interviewees.

This comment addresses a number of problems I found with the conceptualization and conduct of
the interviews. I also note some perplexing ways the interviews and the summary of the Special Issue
misconstrue and overreach both the literature on attachment and the remarks of the interviewees. I will
have little to say about the scholarly papers in the volume. And, although the summary states briefly
that the primary caregiver need not be the mother, the interviewees tended to talk about mothers as the
primary caregivers and fathers as the visiting parents. I will generally adopt that convention.

The introduction helpfully provides the selection criteria for the interviewees: they were to be
experts who had published original attachment research (conducted in the Bowlby/Ainsworth tradition)
in high-ranking international journals (McIntosh, 2011, p. 421). Interviewees were to have had
exposure to divorce-related issues, but for whom divorce was not their chief line of publication
(McIntosh, 2011, p. 421). The group selected was undoubtedly distinguished, and more than met the
established criteria. One is struck, however, not by who was included in the group, but who was
omitted. Michael Lamb was not included, despite his international reputation as a distinguished
scholar, having published attachment research in excellent journals since the 1970s. Ross Thompson
is similarly distinguished and similarly not interviewed, having done much scholarly work in the field
of attachment. Both of these authors have written on divorce; for both, it is not their principal area of
study. There are more. Michael Rutter, an attachment theorist and one of the deans of child psychiatry
worldwide, is cited throughout the issue. Marinus van IJzendoorn, one of the most enduring and
prolific researchers in the field, has conducted all manner of research for decades, including studies in
areas relevant to divorce, like father-infant attachment. Mary Dozier has done extensive study on the
ways that foster children meet the challenges of forming attachments after lives of loss and adversity,
certainly an area with conceptual ties to divorce. All of these remarkable scholars were sadly not
interviewed. In constructing a Special Issue without their voices or those of others like them, the guest
editor limited the readers exposure to the ideas of a moderating wing of attachment theory, those who
applaud what is good about the theory, but who critically examine ideas that are more questionable.
Also omitted, not only from the panel of interviewees but from the Special Issue overall, is mention
of respected scholars who have contributed work on infants and very young children of divorce and
who do not represent themselves primarily as attachment theorists. Thus, no paper or interview of the
11 articles in the Special Issue cites Marsha Pruett on young children and divorce, despite the several
papers she has written, including one of the few on infants and overnight parenting time, a major focus
of the issue (Pruett, Ebling, & Insabella, 2004). Joan Kelly, an acknowledged leader in research on the
children of divorce, is cited only once, in the scholarly paper by Main, Hesse, & Hesse (2011). In the
last decade, these authors and others like them have been undeniably persuasive to social scientists and
courts. Their omission from the panel of interviewees may be understandable, in that attachment was
the focus of the Special Issue; their virtual omission from the reference lists of the entire issue is not.
There is also the matter of the kind of questions chosen for interviewees who, though they were a
conceptually narrow group, represented a treasure trove of knowledge that could have been mined.
Apt questions were often asked of course, but, again, it is the omissions that are of concern. For the
most part, the interviewees were not asked about the nature of their research and clinical experience
with divorce, questions that would have grounded the nave reader in the context within which the
scholar answered, and helped the reader weigh the sufficiency of the response. Controversial or
difficult questions were largely avoided. An instance here is the questioning of Solomon and George
about their research on overnight care. Their studies (Solomon and George, 1999a; 1999b) have
proved beyond controversial in the divorce literature, given the authors acknowledgment of methodological
difficulties in their work, and the fact that there are but a handful of studies of overnight
care in the literature altogether. In the Special Issue, Solomon was simply asked if she was comfortable
with her conclusions that overnights with fathers were stressful to the mother-child relationship,
to which she responded, I am (George, Solomon, & McIntosh, p. 522). The reader is not
well-served, and even a little frustrated, when no follow-up question is posed.

A related concern is the issues easy acceptance of unelaborated and ultimately incomplete
answers, or even answers that contradict those of other interviewees. The summary statements in the
introduction sometimes seem to omit the opinions of interviewees whose ideas varied from the
viewpoint of traditional attachment theory. The guest editor fairly notes that agreement on most points
was to be expected given the theoretical orientation of those selected. It would then follow that
variance from the expected views would be of some interest and at least merit mention in the
summary. An example of such selective reporting is found in the context of the issue of neurological
differences between men and women. Alan Schore notes, controversially, that the female brain is
specifically equipped for the largely nonverbal, affiliative, nurturant aspects of attachment formation
with an infant (Schore & McIntosh, 2011, p. 424). This opinion is duly noted in the summary, but
there is no mention of the countervailing opinion of the other neuroscientist interviewed, Daniel
Siegel, who finds attachment gender neutral (Siegel & McIntosh, p. 519). Charles Zeanah, another
one of the interviewees, and a physician, also recently offered that there is presently little understanding
of the neurology underlying attachment processes (Zeanah & Smyke, 2008); he is not asked about
the issue at all. Thus, an interesting and likely enlightening discussion is sidestepped.

A question posed in the introduction to the Special Issue is one of critical importance: How valid
and all-encompassing is attachment research applied to the divorce population? (McIntosh, 2011, p.
420). There are various and compelling answers possible to this question. Unfortunately, most of them
remain unexplored in the issue. I will address a few, with particular reference to opinions of the
interviewees that may have been misunderstood or unstated in the Special Issue or its summary (see
Ludolph & Dale, 2012, for a more comprehensive review). There is some emphasis on the summary,
which is presented in tabular form, presumably so that a reader could come away with a quick prcis
of the views in the interviews, in some cases perhaps without thoroughly reading the papers. Thus, it
is of particular concern if the summary is incomplete or inaccurate.

The first issue, the impact of early attachment status on later functioning, was explored with two
of the interviewees at some length, but not mentioned in the summary. There is no doubt that
attachment status varies among young children, and that adverse early childhood circumstances
influence assessed attachment status, as do more favorable ones. Sensitive parenting is of particular
importance to early attachment status. What is becoming clearer of late is the relationship of early
attachment to long-term attachment status and functioning. These data are now available because of
the work of those theorists who have followed individuals for decades, such that they can give us
results from outcome data on adolescents and young adults whom they first studied as infants. Two of
the principal authors of the few long-term attachment studies that exist are Waters and Sroufe,
interviewees of the Special Issue. Both of them are strong believers in the importance of early
attachment and traditional attachment theory and say as much in their interviews. Both of them were
among those whose long-term studies showed a relationship between early attachment and adult
outcome, at least in part. Yet, both are careful not to over-construe the unique contribution of early
attachment, realizing that there are as many long-term studies that show continuity of attachment
status as there are those that do not (Thompson, 2006).

Both Sroufe (Sroufe & McIntosh, 2011) and Waters (Waters & McIntosh, 2011) are in firm
agreement that early attachment alone is not determinative of adult functioning and that attachment
status is not necessarily stable over time. A securely attached toddler may grow up to face mental
illness; an insecurely attached child may later flourish. In his own report on 50 middle class young
adults whom he had followed for 20 years, Waters found stability of attachment status over time, but
also concluded, throughout childhood, attachment representations remain open to revision in light of
real experiences (p. 687). He repeats this message clearly in his interview in the Special Issue:
Infant attachment is a starting point. Every journey has to start somewhere. But it is not the end of
the story (Waters and McIntosh, 2011, p. 477). Sroufe makes similar points in his description of his
study of 180 high-risk families over 30 years. His group has reported some data reflecting long-term
continuity of attachment and behavior, and some data where no continuity was seen. Sroufe notes, it
is the cumulative history (as well as current challenges and supports), and not early attachments alone
that account for any observed outcome (Sroufe, 2005, p. 362). Indeed, some variables, for instance
adult mental illness, were more related to environmental factors subsequent to early childhood than to
early attachment (Sroufe, Egelund, Carlson, & Collins, 2005). In his interview, Sroufe is clear: early
attachment is not destiny (Sroufe & McIntosh, 2011, p. 465). Both Waters and Sroufe speak of life
events, positive and negative, that can modify attachment status, including: social support, changes in
parenting quality, changes in economic status, changes in employment, problems with the law,
substance abuse, divorce, loss of a parent, serious illness of a family member, parental mental illness,
and physical and sexual abuse of the child (Waters, Merrick, Treboux, Crowell, & Albersheim, 2000;
Sroufe, 2005).
If negative life events are as important, or sometimes more important, to adult outcomes than early
attachment status, does not this bear mention in the summary? Do the data justify always ranking
attachment over other factors in divorce, when children are very young, as most contributors to the
Special Issue seem to do? These are, of course, open questions, but a balanced view would require that
all sides of the issue be examined.

A confusing aspect of attachment theory is its imperfect and sometimes overbroad definition of
separation and loss, a subject to which John Bowlby (Bowlby, 1973, 1980), the architect of attachment
theory, devoted a good deal of his writing. Obviously, this topic has much bearing for families
of divorce. Bowlbys focus on infantile relationships, innovative as it was in the middle of the
twentieth century, led to an early interest in what he termed maternal deprivation (Bowlby, 1951).
Based primarily on his study of institutionalized children, he postulated that a childs loss of the
mother early in life could lead to great and enduring psychological harm. Robertson was an early
collaborator of Bowlbys who soon followed up on this idea, studying toddlers who were separated
from their mothers for periods of days or a couple of weeks. Robertson recorded in print and in film
the evident sadness, protest, and, later, emotional detachment of the babies at these separations.
Bowlby was quite taken with these data as confirmation of his theory. Writing nearly 20 years later,
with his wife and coauthor, Robertson was much less certain, [Bowlby] has generalized Robertsons
concept of protest, despair, and denial beyond the context from which it was derived . . . Our
findings do not support Bowlbys generalization about the responses of young children to loss of
the mother per se (Robertson & Robertson, 1971, p. 313). The Robertsons also noted that these
children did not have the seriously maladaptive characteristics of other children they had studied
who experienced long-term institutional care. They wrote that the difference between the children
they observed in shorter term separations and those they saw in institutions was qualitative and
not merely of degree. All were able to use the substitute for the absent mother (Robertson &
Robertson, 1971, p. 312).

Like Robertson, Rutter took on the study of loss, maternal deprivation, and early childhood
institutionalization very early in the history of attachment theory (Rutter, 1971). What he has learned,
after a lifetime of research, turns out to be quite measured and sensible. Rutter determined that the
context of the loss is very significant, asWaters points out in his interview (Waters & McIntosh, 2011).
As the number of early stressors increase, so does the short and long-term damage to the children.
Main, Hesse and Hesse (2011) make this point well in their article in the Special Issue, emphasizing
that Rutter did not think that separations were determinative of later development, and noting that this
became Bowlbys view as well (Bowlby, 1988). Rutter and his colleagues also found, however, that the
toll of years of early abusive and neglectful care turns out to be often marked and unrecoverable, even
if the child is adopted into a loving home (Rutter & Sonuga-Barke, 2010).

These distinctions in regard to early loss bear on aspects of the interviews. The interviews (and the
introduction to the Special Issue) pose hypothetical situations and questions that presume infant
separations from either or both parents of weeks or months, or custodial arrangements where young
children must frequently spend hours and hours travelling very long distances between their parents.
Some such separations might well mimic the situation of the toddlers seen by the Robertsons, who
were well cared for by friends or foster parents, but missed their absent mothers. Of course, such
things can happen to infants of divorce on occasion. There are, for instance, quandaries and uneasy
resolutions when the parent of a young child relocates a long distance from the other parent (Austin,
Ludolph, & Gould, 2011). For the most part, however, overnight time for very young children is
distributed by well-intended judges and parents such that children are not without either parent for
very long. Kelly and Lamb (2000) well describe a good parenting plan for the very young: The ideal
situation is one in which infants and toddlers have opportunities to interact with both parents every day
or every other day in a variety of functional contexts (feeding, play, discipline, basic care, limit setting,
putting to bed, etc.) (p. 304). In the view of those authors, and this one, the best parenting plan for
young children whose parents communicate and relate reasonably well would logically incorporate
overnight care.

It should be carefully noted, however, that when those of us who do this work contemplate
parenting plans for infants and toddlers, we are almost never planning for children who spent their first
years in Romanian orphanages or in other situations of unremitting abuse and neglect. One of the
interviewees, Charles Zeanah, has been among those who have studied institutionalized children with
Rutter, and described the children as having severe attachment and behavior disorders (Zeanah,
Smyke, Koga, & Carlson, 2005). Zeanah would never confuse one of these children with a typical
child of divorce who had been separated for a few days too long from his mother. As Robertson said,
the difference is unmistakable.

Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.

Part Two - Are the wheels coming off Jenn McIntosh PhD?

Indeed, unlike traditionalists who presume that mothers take care of babies all day long, mental
 health professionals who assist the court are often planning for young children of two working parents,
 who spend much of each day in the care of babysitters and child care centers. Little mention is made
 in the Special Issue of the obvious contradiction inherent in giving the mother necessary latitude to put
 her baby in child care where the child invariably naps in the day, while forbidding overnight care with
 the father, who would have the child sleep at his house. Indeed, sometimes the child is permitted to nap
 at her fathers house by day but not sleep at night. It is of some interest that Sagi and his colleagues
 (Sagi, Koren-Karie, Gini, Ziv, & Joels, 2002) have found that infants who are cared for by relatives
 have significantly enhanced attachment to their mothers, when compared to infants in the fulltime care
 of their mothers. This paradigm makes sense for many infants of divorce, given the stresses and strains
 of fulltime work while caring for an infant as a single parent. Significant relief from childcare during
 the day and at night might reasonably lead to a refreshed mother, ready and eager to provide the secure
 base needed for the childs social and emotional development. And surely the father would be a good
 choice for a relative caregiver.

 This brings me to a last point about the odd remarks of some of the interviewees on the infants
 experience of night and dark. The guest editor asks Solomon and George why nighttime represents
 a special separation and vulnerability for the infant. Solomon replies, The state of the organism is to
 be more anxious at night (George, Solomon, & McIntosh, 2011, p. 524). Richard Bowlby talks about
 a fear of the night as being part of a babys genetic code. Some of this could be true, but I am not aware
 that Bowlby classified periods of sleep of only a few hours as separations, or that serious attachment
 scholars like Rutter have studied them. Rutter would not have spent time on this issue because it is
 self-evident that this kind of loss is minor and entirely recoverable. John Bowlby did not create a
 theory to account for overnight sleeps. Bowlbys theory is trivialized by talk about the losses of the
 Romanian orphans in the same breath as those of American babies who must wait until morning to see

 The summary discusses monotropy, Bowlbys purely theoretical idea that children require a
 single primary parent to thrive, and, from an ethological standpoint, to survive. The summary states
 that, all contributors agreed on the essential role of a primary attachment figure in the first year to two
 of life (McIntosh, 2011, p. 422). Certainly, all attachment theorists of note would not agree. Lamb,
 had he been interviewed, would certainly dissent, having spent a great deal of his time since the 1970s
 researching the role of both mothers and fathers in the early lives of children.

 It does not appear that all of the interviewees agreed either, nor did John Bowlby. Waters pointed
 out: The idea that there should be one figure only was not Bowlbys view in the end (Waters and
 McIntosh, 2011, p. 480, in reference to Bowlby, 1988, pp. 1011). Waters goes on to argue that
 monotropy is not justified by the logic of modern attachment theory, though it is true that infants do
 better if they are in the care of one or only a few figures (p. 480), allowing for at least two primary
 attachment figures, the mother and the father. Waters argues against the concept of an attachment
 hierarchy, another early idea of Bowlbys, because there is no evidence for the rank-ordering of
 attachment figures that this implies (with the mother ranked at the top), noting the complementary
 roles parents usually play for young children.

 Siegel also states that a baby can have two primary caregivers, the mother and the father, who have
 quite different functions. He thought divorce might change things for the family, though he was certain
 that both men and women were up to the task. Richard Bowlby promotes the idea that there are often
 two primary attachment figures who serve two complementary and necessary functions, one for love
 and security, and the other to engage in exciting and challenging experiences (Bowlby & McIntosh,
 2011, p.26). He cites the work of the Grossmann group as formative in this thinking (Grossmann et al.,
 2002). In her interview, Solomon also notes and supports the findings of the Grossmann group,
 commenting that these data were consistent with attachment theory and the literature as she understood

 Klaus and Karin Grossmann conducted two of the substantial long-term outcome studies of
 attachment, finding few connections overall between early attachment measures and adolescent and
 adult outcome (Grossmann et al., 2002). They were also among the startlingly small group of
 attachment researchers who studied the early caregiving of fathers as well as mothers. In their cohort,
 the quality of the infants attachment to the mother did predict the childs internal working model of
 attachment at age ten. The fathers sensitivity to his toddlers play predicted attachment status at ten
 as well. By age 16, however, only the fathers early play sensitivity was predictive of adolescent
 attachment representation (Grossmann et al., 2002). Here and elsewhere, the Grossmann group argues
 that the secure-base concept, with its emphasis on safety and comfort, varies from a secureexploration
 concept, which emphasizes companionship, encouragement and the provision of safety as
 the child learns to explore and delight in his world.

 Schores view of the neurological literature, as described in his interview, also supports the work
 of the Grossmann group. Schore observed that the fathers role is critical to the toddlers competence
 in the exploration of his world and the development of regulation of aggression in the second year. By
 the second year of life, separation from the father will also elicit a stress reaction from the baby, the
 same as it would with separation from the mother (Schore & McIntosh, 2011, p. 505).

 None of these points about the role of the father in early development are much elaborated in the
 interviews, and none are mentioned in the summary. Given that 5 of the 12 interviewees speak very
 specifically about the important role of fathers in early development, this seems a notable omission.
 Bretherton (2010) has also recently written at length about the importance of fathers to young
 children, and of the work of the Grossmanns.A summary statement that mentioned the critical role of
 fathers in the second year of life would have been helpful, as well as discussion of the necessary
 developmental unpinning that fathers seem to give their babies. Infant distress at separation from the
 father would also have borne mention, as a complement to the often-stated concerns about separation
 from the mother.

 Most of the interviewees declined to offer specific suggestions for parenting plans, many noting the
 numbers of complex factors that must go into these plans. Most, however, were opposed to all or many
 overnights with fathers early in life. Only Sroufe offered a specific plan. For fathers of young children,
 two short visits during the week and one odd day during the weekend would be plenty (Sroufe &
 McIntosh, p. 468). This statement became the crux of a general quasi-recommendation for parenting
 plans in the summary: For babies, visits two to three times per week . . . were thought to be optimal
 (McIntosh, 2011, p. 423). This statement is too specific to capture the views of a group that largely
 stressed the importance of individual factors in deriving parenting plans.

 There are practical problems with these kinds of parenting time recommendations for young
 fathers of divorce, problems more likely encountered by those who regularly attempt to help families
 and courts derive child-friendly plans. Consider the young father faced with a court order dictating
 short visits during the work week, designed to create a relaxed, if brief, parenting experience while not
 stressing the baby with undue separations from her mother. He may well have a rigidly scheduled,
 entry-level job that supports not just himself, but his child and his childs mother. Yet, he must find
 two, sometimes three, two-hour blocks of parenting time that his employer will allow. His employer
 will likely have no reason to entertain providing a flexible work schedule to a junior employee. So, the
 young man leaves work promptly at 5:00 pm, and speeds to the home of his childs mother. He picks
 up the baby, who may well be cranky because of hunger or fatigue at that time of day. The child may
 thus struggle against the transition. He then drives at least a few minutes to his home, arriving there
 just before six. The baby may now be asleep or frantically hungry. The babys mood does not improve
 when she is woken, taken out of her car seat, and fed as fast as the father can, but not as fast as the
 baby wants. By this time, the father may have only half an hour or so to enjoy his child before the drive
 and transfer to the mothers home begins. It is hard to see anything like this as a child-friendly plan.
 If the mother works as well, as is often the case, this scenario becomes even more complex. If the
 parents live more than a few minutes apart, it is impossible.

 Overnights are part of the logical solution to this kind of family nightmare. The father (or
 noncustodial parent) would pick up the baby a night or two during the week at the same time. The baby
 might still fuss, but once made comfortable, would be at her second home for the night. It would be
 a familiar place, not a spot where she drops in for the odd visit. The father would bond with the baby
 over quiet play, bedtime rituals, and nighttime comforting. There would be more time together in the
 morning. If the babys mother worked outside the home, transitions might be at the daycare, lessening
 the childs exposure to conflict. It is hard to see this as a plan that does not benefit the baby.
 There are a handful of studies that examine the effect of overnight stays in young children, and all
 of them are very problematic. Solomon and George (1999a; 1999b) conclude that it is best to limit
 overnight time, but their studies are significantly flawed, as they state themselves, and as many others
 have noted (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2011; Lamb, 2012; Lamb & Kelly, 2001; Ludolph & Dale, 2012;
 Pruett, Cowan, Cowan, & Diamond, 2012;Warshak, 2000). The McIntosh, Smyth, & Kelaher (2010)
 study is also flawed (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2011; Lamb, 2012; Ludolph & Dale, 2012; Pruett et al.,
 2012). Another recent study from the attachment theorists is equally methodologically problematic
 and, in any case, found that overnights were not harmful to children (Altenhofen, Sutherland, &
 Biringen, 2010). Some will say that all studies are imperfect, and all scholars can reject all studies
 because of this. This research, however, has obvious limitations that give many pause, even Charles
 Zeanah (Lieberman, Zeanah, & McIntosh, 2011). All of the studies relied on the mother as the reporter
 of all or most of the data about the father, with the bias that approach likely entails. The studies
 collected little or no data on the attachment relationships of fathers and their babies, despite the
 thirty-year-old literature that infants can form solid attachments to both their fathers and their
 mothers, and the multiple hypotheses of the studies that would limit infants time with fathers in
 divorce. Most studies used inappropriate or nonstandardized measures of attachment and separation.
 The exception is the careful and well-argued study of Pruett and her colleagues (Pruett et al., 2004),
 which interviewed fathers as well as mothers and employed standard measures. Also valuable is the
 pioneering meta-analytic work of Whiteside and Becker (2000).

 Since the publication of the July 2011 Special Issue, the guest editor has published a detailed
 review of all the available studies on overnight care for young children, noting that no parenting plan
 should be offered independent of parenting and relationship qualities and psychosocial resources,
 (McIntosh & Smyth, 2012, p. 157). She concludes, and I would agree: The empirical base is
 embryonic, and further research is needed (p. 180). Kuehnle and Drozd (2012) edited the impressive
 volume on empirical approaches to child custdy and parenting plans in which the guest editors 2012
 chapter appears. Based on their own substantial knowledge of the field and chapters in their book by
 experts like Lieberman, McIntosh, Pruett, Kelly, and Lamb, they conclude that there is agreement
 among developmental psychologists that the overnight issue is far from settled. It is difficult to resolve
 the guest editors provision of a quasi-recommendation that significantly limits the time of noncustodial
 parents in the Special Issue, with her cautions a few months later about the dangers of the
 provision of exactly such generic parenting plans.

 One of the interviewees, Alicia Lieberman, is not only an expert on attachment, but a clinician who
 works with the children of overburdened and violent families. She appears to have more experience
 with the courts than most of the interviewees, and is sympathetic to the burdens of the judiciary.
 Lieberman states a strong opinion succinctly: Again, and again, I think that theory cannot make law.
 Theory can guide legal thinking, but no theory accounts for the multiplicity of influences that are
 enacted in each particular situation (Lieberman, Zeanah, & McIntosh, p. 531). Lieberman speaks
 with wisdom and common sense. Children need individual determinations in divorce, not generic ones
 based on uncertain theory.

 I have presented my views on the ways that the Special Issue, and particularly its summary,
 overreaches the available research data, doing so by remarkable omissions and over-generalizations.
 The voluminous literature on the role of fathers in early childhood was barely touched upon.
 Monotropy was reified, despite its being an idea unsupported by empirical evidence. The serious
 attention many researchers have given to the attachment capabilities of both parents was virtually
 unmentioned. Serious losses of childhood were confounded with trivial ones.

 The version of attachment theory which the Special Issue seems inclined to make policy is
 attachment theory in its most traditional form, more traditional at times than the ideas Bowlby held at
 the end of his life, and certainly different from the current views of scholars like Lamb, Thompson,
 Rutter, van IJzendoorn, and Dozier. To make attachment theory into policy, or even into law, the
 Special Issue would have it trump the multiple influences to which Lieberman alludes. But many
 other factors can and do intrude themselves into the custodial equation. As noted aptly throughout the
 Special Issue, there is conflict and family violence. Again, there is the formative literature on the
 impact of fathers on their children. Not only do fathers encourage exploration in toddlerhood
 (Grossmann et al., 2002), but they provide emotional sustenance in different ways than mothers do
 throughout childhood (Pleck, 2010). They also provide financial support, particularly if they have
 ample parenting time and become committed to a pattern of adequate child support payments soon
 after the parental separation (Amato & Sobolewski, 2004). Attachment theorists themselves, including
 Sroufe andWaters, have noted the impact of negative life events in later childhood on functioning
 and attachment status in adolescence and adulthood. This, then, would imply that it would be best if
 parenting plans were put together to minimize the possibility of childhood trauma and adversity.
 Numerous other factors are also important, for instance, parental adjustment, community and family
 support, family income, parental education, and the possibility that a parental relationship might be
 entirely lost (Kelly, 2012; Ludolph & Dale, 2012). There certainly is no research that would support
 a finding that attachment status should necessarily trump all these other influences.

 Some questions, of course, have no clear answers in research or in theory. Scholars and clinicians
 are then well to make clear and careful statements of the limitations of their knowledge. Unfortunately,
 the tone of the Special Issue was one of more certainty than the literature warrants. Sometimes such
 thinking does make its way, intentionally or inadvertently, into social policy determinations. It would
 be a pity if that happened here. Safer by far, and truer to the state of the literature, is a caveat that
 individual children require individual decision making, whether by their parents or the courts.

 I am very grateful for the suggestions and encouragement of Bud Dale, Bill Austin, Judy Cashmore, Leslie Drozd, Robert
 Emery, Joan Kelly, Michael Lamb, Patrick Parkinson, and Richard Warshak. Their contributions have added much to my
 thinking and certainly improved this comment.

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 Amato, P. R., & Sobolewski, J. M. (2004). The effects of divorce on fathers and children: Nonresidential fathers and
 stepfathers. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (4th ed., pp. 341367). Hoboken, NJ:
 Austin, W. G., Ludolph, P. S., & Gould, J. W. (June, 2011). Relocation, very young children, and child custdy evaluation:
 Forensic issues, research, and ethical considerations. Paper presented at the 48th Annual Conference of the Association of
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 Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.
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 Richard Bowlby. Family Court Review, 49, 549556.
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 Cashmore, J., & Parkinson, P. (2011). Parenting arrangements for young children: Messages from research. Australian Journal
 of Family Law, 25(3), 236257.
 George, C., Solomon, J., & McIntosh, J. (2011). Divorce in the nursery: On infants and overnight care. Family Court Review,
 49, 521528.
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 young children. In J. McIntosh, B. Smyth, M. Kelaher, Y.Wells, & C. Long (Eds.), Post-separation parenting arrangements
 and developmental outcomes for children: Collected reports; Report to the Australian Government Attorney-Generals
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 of arly child care on infant-mother attachment relationship: The Haifa Study of Early Child Care. Child Development, 73,
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 and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford.
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 personality development (6th ed., pp. 2498). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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 Courts Review, 38, 422445.
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 A twenty-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 71, 684689.
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 Pamela Ludolph is a clinical and forensic psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a lecturer at the University of
 Michigan. She holds an AB in psychology from Mount Holyoke College, an AM in educational theory from the
 University of Toronto, and an MA and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan. She often is asked
 to conduct child custdy and access evaluations for the courts, as well as court-ordered treatment of families troubled
 by highly conflicted divorce and allegations of child maltreatment. Her professional and research interests involve
 attachment, alienation, relocation, and assessment, particularly in families with very young children.

Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.



I'm sorry but this post is in the wrong place.

It was not intended as a reply to the previous posting but to develop the forum's understanding of Jenn McIntosh's work.

In particular I wanted to make a comparison between my own comment made some months ago and that of Michael Lamb to see whether others on the forum recognised the similarities or not?

I don't think people on the forum were aware of the controversy in academic circles until my posting and I wanted people to get abreast of the topic.

This thread cites the work of another author.

If this post was not moved by the moderator I apologise.


(I have not  changed the original article above)

Last edit: by Kip

Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.
We have discussed the issues of attachment theory and young children at length in many posts. We are fortunate indeed that we inserted in our Act in 2006 matters surrounding 60B Objects of Part and principles underlying it.

(1) The objects of this Part are to ensure that the best interests of children are met by:
a) ensuring that children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives, to the maximum extent consistent with the best interests of the child; and
b) protecting children from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence; and
c) ensuring that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential; and
d) ensuring that parents fulfil their duties, and meet their responsibilities, concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.

(2) The principles underlying these objects are that (except when it is or would be contrary to a childs best interests):
a) children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents, regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together; and
b) children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives); and
c) parents jointly share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children; and
d) parents should agree about the future parenting of their children; and
e) children have a right to enjoy their culture (including the right to enjoy that culture with other people who share that culture).

(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (2)(e), an Aboriginal childs or Torres Strait Islander childs right to enjoy his or her Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture includes the right:
a) to maintain a connection with that culture; and
b) to have the support, opportunity and encouragement necessary:
 (i) to explore the full extent of that culture, consistent with the childs age and developmental level and the childs views; and
 (ii) to develop a positive appreciation of that culture.

Now that is the starting preamble Kip.

I suggest that writing the sorts of commentary that you prefer to provide should be carefully eluded to the fact it is applicable to other than Australian Law. I also hardly think simply copying material from one preciously posted topic to a new topic is the way to go here. Simply refer us with a link to the previous posted material.

I would also suggest the material could be qualified through publication in a properly formatted document and attached as quite frankly I found it all hard to read and come to some understanding of what you intended to say Kip.

In Australia, regardless of the writings of any authority, there is a Presumption of equal shared parental responsibility when making parenting orders (s61DA) This is not the same as Substantial and Significant time but involves parents making a decision about a major long-term issues in relation to a child, both parents are required to discuss any proposed decision with each other and reach agreement about the decision. However, where a child is spending time with a person pursuant to the terms of a parenting order, that person is not required to consult on decisions about issues that arise during that time that are not major long-term issues.

Of course, parents may choose to consult on these issues. The clarification of what issues are major long-term issues is intended to reduce disputes about what falls into this category and to make it clear that day to day decisions can be made by the parties when the children are with them.

Major long-term issues (section 4 of Family Law Act), in relation to a child, means issues about the care, welfare and development of the child of a long-term nature and includes (but is not limited to) issues of that nature about:
(a) the childs education (both current and future); and
(b) the childs religious and cultural upbringing; and
 the childs health; and
(d) the childs name; and
(e) changes to the childs living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent.

We also have a heavy reliance on PDR (Primary Dispute Resolution( through mediation) and coming to some arrangement as early on as possible.

Regardless of the writing of any of the "Experts" that wish to reduce contact time, the facts are that we have a set of laws that allows investigation and in the main consideration of "best interests" and "reasonable practicality".  

I note with interest recent commentary coming out of the UK.

Earlier this year ministers had rejected the advice from the economist David Norgrove, who chaired an independent official review into family justice, and warned of the situation in Australia after the country introduced "shared parenting" rights. A series of legal claims and counter-claims led to severe delays in child custody cases.

But ministers say its draft clauses will not lead to the courts having to apportion "equal time" or "defining the nature" of parental relationship  both cited as reasons why the law failed in Australia.

My question is where do they get the sort of misinformation that is promulgated as absolute fact. Where do our Australian courts HAVE to apportion "equal time" or "define the nature" of parental relationship…  Perhaps the good old English phrase "bollocks!" comes to mind…

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
SPCA Secretary,

The article I  have posted on this thread is by Pamela S. Ludolph.

She is criticising the special edition of Family Court Review from Jenn McIntosh PhD


Pamela S. Ludolph

The Family Court Review Special Issue edited by McIntosh focused on the views of traditional attachment theorists, neglecting to interview more progressive thinkers or put many thought-provoking questions to the traditionalists. The advances in attachment research in the last half century were little acknowledged. Among the unexplored research findings were the discovery that early attachment status can change, often as a result of negative life events; that maternal deprivation and other early losses are recoverable; and that infants do not require one primary caregiver to thrive. The notion that young children should not have overnight stays with their fathers was presented as fact, when little convincing research exists on the question.

This thread is about Pamela's article which I have reproduced to give readers an insight into the academic controversy surrounding Jenn McIntoshes work.

I have not made any comments or changed the article in any way. The points in your preamble should be addressed to her not me.

This controversy has a bearing on the guidelines that Jenn McIntosh has produced about fathers contact with their children which I have started to explain in my other threads.

Were you aware of this controversy beforehand?

If not, may I be allowed to explain what has happened?

I should also like to be allowed to answer your queries about at the end of your posting but again I think this deserves another thread.


Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.
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