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PART ONE; Australian Family Law: The contribution of Dr Jennifer McIntosh and Dr John Bowlby

Family Law

Summary - A prominent Australian researcher on family law is Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist, Dr McIntosh B.A. (Hons), Ph.D., M.A.P.S.(Clin), V.A.F.T. - Dr McIntosh has played a leading role in national research and associated professional development programmes in which key stakeholders include the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department, Family and Community Services, The Office for the Status of Women, and the Family Court of Australia. However her work on attachment is based on Dr John Bowlby's theory of 'maternal deprivation'. He saw 'the relationship of a young child to the mother as an important determinant of mental health' (1986) whilst the father played 'second fiddle' (1969). Given these views it is argued that Dr McIntosh's work will undermine the Australian government's support for a child's meaningful relationship with both parents post separation and bring family law into disrepute thus making it a cause for concern for the department of the Attorney-General. PLEASE NOTE THIS LETTER IS TOO LONG FOR THE FORUM SO WILL BE DIVIDED INTO PARTS.

 FAO; The Honourable Nicola Roxon MP, Attorney-General

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

45 Roberts Road
Shirley
Southampton
UK
SO15 5DF
3 January 2012
Dear Mrs Roxon,
 
Re; Australian Family Law: The contribution of Dr Jennifer McIntosh and Dr John Bowlby

 May I congratulate you on your appointment as the first woman to hold the post of Attorney-General. I am aware that, as well as your legal background, you also have an interest in health matters and the upbringing of children, which I hope may help you with this concern regarding Australian Family Law.

 Your colleague Robert McClelland MP is on record, as the previous Attorney-General, stating that despite the changes, 'The federal government strongly supports shared care and a child's right to a meaningful relationship with both their parents'. (Family Court decision seems to be wrong on many different levels, The Australian, November 25, 2011).

 Instrumental in the debate on Shared Parenting is the contribution made by the Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist, Dr McIntosh B.A. (Hons), Ph.D., M.A.P.S.(Clin), V.A.F.T. Dr McIntosh has played a leading role in national research and associated professional development programmes in which key stakeholders include the Commonwealth Attorney Generals Department, Family and Community Services, The Office for the Status of Women, and the Family Court of Australia. According to her own biography, 'She is well regarded for her strong advocacy on the rights of children to psychological safety, particularly in the face of family trauma and change'.

 However I seek to challenge the appointment of Dr McIntosh to any of these roles, in particular with the Attorney-Generals Department, because of her sexist view of attachment which is influenced by Dr John Bowlby's theory of 'maternal deprivation'.

 In support for this concern I refer specifically to the involvement of Dr McIntosh as lead author for the Attorney-Generals research project on, 'Post-separation Parenting Arrangements: Patterns and Developmental Outcomes - Studies of Two Risk Groups. Collected Reports,' (2010) which relies heavily on Dr John Bowlby's work, both in methodology and content. More recently Dr McIntosh has produced a set of guidelines for the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health called 'Infants and overnight care - post separation and divorce' which also relies upon the values and attitudes of Dr John Bowlby. (Shared custody a mistake for the under-2s, say guidelines, Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2011).

 As if to confirm this concern, a special edition of Family Court Review from July 2011 (Emery and Schepard, Family Court Review, 49:415417), which was conceived and largely co-written by Dr McIntosh, called 'Attachment, Separation, and Divorce: Forging coherent understandings for family law' addressed these issues exclusively within a, 'Bowlby - Ainsworth attachment paradigm'.

 Of particular concern, is the interview for this publication between Dr McIntosh and Dr John Bowlby's son entitled, 'Attachment history, legacy and currency for family law: In conversation with Sir Richard Bowlby'. In this interview Sir Richard Bowlby states,

 My fathers first book was 'Child Care and the Growth of Love'.

 But he must know this statement is not true. His father's first book was 'Maternal Care and Mental Health,' (1952) in which he described the theory of 'maternal deprivation'. This included the passage, repeated in 'Child Care and the Growth of Love',

 It is she who feeds and cleans him, keeps him warm, and comforts him. It is to his mother that he turns when in distress. In the young child's eyes father plays second fiddle.

 In 1986, towards the end of his career, when Dr John Bowlby was asked to select his favourite book as a 'citation classic', despite the controversy surrounding his work, he chose 'Maternal Care and Mental Health' because he said,

 It focused attention on the relationship of a young child to the mother as an important determinant of mental health.

 In the interview there is the following exchange, Sir Richard Bowlby: This is where I think, basically King Solomon got it right by asking, Who is the psychological mother? McIntosh: I agree that the survey responses are fascinating and troubling at the same time. As Everett Waters said in his interview, this whole Special Edition could have been called Why family law is asking the wrong questions about attachment.

 This echoes the sexist language used by Dr John Bowlby to justify his theory of 'maternal deprivation'. He claimed that the mother is the psychological parent and that there is a qualitative difference between her bond with the child, and any other person. Dr John Bowlby went on to argue that if the child was deprived of a relationship with the mother, dire consequences would befall.

 Integral to this theory of 'maternal deprivation' is the concept of 'monotropy'. This is a term invented by Dr John Bowlby in his paper from 1958 called 'The nature of the child's tie to his mother', (International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1958, 39, 350-373), in which he states

 The tendency for instinctual responses to be directed towards a particular individual or group of individuals and not promiscuously towards many is one which I believe to be so important and so neglected that it deserves a special term. I propose to call it monotropy.

 Dr McIntosh's view is that because the concept of 'monotropy' is not sexist on its own, it is legitimate to argue that treating one parent as the primary attachment figure for 'comfort and security' and treating the other as primary attachment figure but for a different purpose, is justified.

 The problem occurs because both concepts of 'maternal deprivation' and 'monotropy' are interdependent, most people would consider them to mean the same. For example, the………

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'.
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