Donate Child Support Calculator
Skip navigation

Attack on shared parenting using advocacy 'research'

Dr Jen McIntosh's 'research' seeks to strategise 'conflict' as another tactic in the fight to diminish shared parenting and thus stop fathers being parents.

The first of these two articles reveals the sisterhood (Sisters Horin and McIntosh) seeking to hose down shared parenting … where 'dreaded' fathers might actually be allowed to be parents. Dr Jen McIntosh's advocacy 'research' seeks to strategise 'conflict' as another tactic in the fight to diminish shared parenting.

To look 'balanced' the SMH has tacked on a 'sort of' pro shared parenting example article.
The Sydney Morning Herald
4 March 2008

Children at risk in rise of shared care
By Adele Horin

Separating parents involved in acrimonious conflicts over their children are more likely to end up with shared-care arrangements than other divorcing parents, research shows.

But the 50-50 or near-equal arrangements put their children's psychological health at risk and often break down within a year.

The research, which is funded by the federal Attorney-General's Department and the Family Court, raises questions about the rise in shared care that has taken place since changes to the Family Law Act in 2006.

The findings, to be published in the Journal Of Family Studies, show that parents who needed help from the court to resolve their disputes ended up with shared care in 46 per cent of cases, while among parents who made their own arrangements only 9.5 per cent favoured shared care.

The researcher, Jennifer McIntosh, the director of Family Transitions, said: "We have a very high percentage of very high-conflict families sharing the care of their children and this goes against all the good research. This is not a good situation - developmentally - for children to be in."

In almost three-quarters of the shared-care cases, at least one parent reported "almost never" co-operating with the other four months into the arrangement.

While the court sample is small - 77 cases involving 111 children - a second study by Dr McIntosh of 183 high-conflict couples who went to formal mediation showed a similar pattern. These parents were also far more likely to enter a 50-50 arrangement than is the norm. While 27 per cent of the couples left the mediation with a shared-care agreement, three-quarters of the arrangements had broken down within a year. The fathers in particular reported worsening conflict with their former partners during the shared care.

Dr McIntosh said the legislative and social environment had created a "shared-care frenzy", with parents entering the arrangement ill-advised and ill-prepared.

She said it was an effective arrangement for children aged over two when parents were emotionally mature and focused on the child's interests rather than on their own rights.

The paper urges lawyers, mediators and other professionals to ask themselves whether shared care for parents in conflict would lead to children "being richly shared or deeply divided". Dr McIntosh said before rushing into shared care, parents should be helped to put the necessary building blocks in place.

The findings show 28 per cent of the children from the Family Court sample and 21 per cent from the mediation sample were suffering a high degree of emotional distress, with shared care and parental conflict big factors. Children aged under 10 were most at risk.

The Howard government, with Labor support, changed the Family Law Act after strong pressure from fathers' groups to give greater legal weight to shared care. But Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge, and co-author of the paper, concluded the 2006 amendments should not be seen as a straitjacket that requires equal or near-equal parenting time. "The new guidelines, although more prescriptive than the old, still focus on the child's best interests," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
4 March 2008

Boys settled quickly into two houses
By Ellie Harvey

Every two weeks Paul and Stephen Lehoczky pack up some of their personal belongings and move house.

It is a ritual the teenagers have practised for the past 10 years, dividing their time equally between their divorced parents.

John Lehoczky, 54, and Julie Clark, 47, who share the care of their four sons, say they all settled quickly into a routine. For them, managing the children's living arrangements on their own has meant keeping lawyers out of the break-up.

"You can deal with the pain and hurt yourself but the interests of the children have got to be paramount," Mr Lehoczky said.

Ms Clark and her partner, and Mr Lehoczky and his second wife, live within 10 minutes of each other in Canberra. This has limited the disruption to school, friends and other activities.

"They're busy boys," Mr Lehoczkysaid, "and they certainly keep us busy."

More recently their two adult sons, Adam and Michael, have made their own arrangements.

Mr Lehoczky said it was harder for the older boys at the time of his divorce because they had an understanding of what was happening. The younger ones saw it as more of an adventure. But soon the boys were settled and "knew where they were".

The youngest, Stephen, 14, yesterday said the worst thing was the packing and unpacking, which "gets a bit annoying". The arrangement also includes two sets of school uniforms.
The article makes references to statements and figures that in essence could be right but what it does not explain is who instigates the conflict and why there is less co-opperation.

46% of court cases end in shared care because parents are trying to establish a presence in their childrens lives, so thats a given one or the other parents needs a judgmental decision because the other parent is being unreasonable.

90.5% of cases through mediation do not request 50/50 care but it does not mention what the average % of care that is requested is? (Yes I also realize some get shafted too) .

Conflict is never good for kids is an obvious statement but does not determine who causes the conflict but this is answered later by the comment that fathers report ongoing conflict which suggests they are still running into problems with getting mum to reduce conflict for the sake of the kids.

Lets face it you can only bash your head against the brick wall so long before you say " OK we will just have to parent differently " This means conflict and you can not get agreement on parenting strategies to be the same in both houses.

28% suffering emotional distress but no information as to if their are high amounts of Parent Alienation and what sort of conflict may be suffered through derogative remarks by extended family members.

Mr Chisholm being quoted " should not be seen as a straitjacket that requires equal or near-equal parenting time " is out of context as this has not been the case anyway to my knowledge so why even bother putting this in other than to simply insight conflict.

Once again a reporter who seemingly misrepresents statistical information to further self interest.

It is doubtful there is an alliance to any creed except self and her articles if read may show this.
I did shared care under extreme conflict - so what?

"But the 50-50 or near-equal arrangements put their children's psychological health at risk and often break down within a year."

Two points raised - someone has done a psychological health evaluation or is this a guess? And would it be worse not having significant contact with the other parent?

The 50/50 breaks down - this is a pretty easy thing to engineer if that's what you want to do. It's pretty straight forward for 50/50 to organise pick up of a child from school - designated routine etc.

It can be stressful if you engineer having to have discussions or conversations - best done with simple letters requiring yes/no or signatures for children matters - or better yet just information - no response required.

"The fathers in particular reported worsening conflict with their former partners during the shared care."

Whats does this mean? Does this mean the mothers were playing up?

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
 Apparently some people get offended, or see commentary on the biases that the media and others do, as anti-women. Its a standard technique to to attack the person raising issues rather than the ideas.

What D4E has done quite clearly is expose the issues and the thinking in this media report. This is all valuable discussion and commentary about fundamental issues affecting shared parenting, CSA and related issue.

The report came from government funded activity - and it's fair game to talk about the reporter, the report, etc.

People who play victim or attack the forum writer add nothing to the debate. Please feel free to contribute your ideas - that's what a forum is for. Share ideas - information etc.

Anyone who has a problem with discussing ideas and logically evaluating arguments and information - please feel free to contact me on any topic you like. I can help provide the statistics, research , arguments and other documents which can contribute to the debate.

Last edit: by Jon Pearson


 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
I have experienced care from both sides of the fence (my kids and dss). I have to say, shared care is much easier.

Because occaisional access has to be negotiated, each and every time, there is no opportunity to disengage.

It is the ability to disengage that makes it emotionally easier on everyone.

Of course, there are some women who have trouble with "ownership" issues of their children that they will be as difficult as possible until care is minimised to whatever amount (in their head) they think is acceptable.

This is another reason why shared care needs to be presumptive, because there is still a strong mindset in the general population that mum should have majority care of children. This is despite plenty of empirical evidence of benefits from the contrary situation.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
My daughter lived in a week about shared care arrangement for 11 years.

This is just winding up now, as she prepares to move into shared university accomodation.

Given the circumstances it worked well.  It didn't interfere with her schooling or friends.  She did well at school.  She got to see and know both parents.
If anyone is interested in reading the real article you can click on this link to go to study paper:

As I am a novice this may not be appropriate or work out but it is a very interesting read and I think shows just how things become misinterpreted.

The article defines concerns for the children due to conflict but we have to consider it is a general assumption that the male is to blame. In this article are contained references that suggest dad is not the source of conflict.

I am a 50/50 parent and from week to week I help my daughter try and understand that mum and dad are different but we both love her, she has had to put up with much and she's getting there with support.

Read the article and I hope you see what I see.
I think there needs to be a real push on teaching children of highly volatile splits on how to cope with the situation and to be assertive with parents where their own needs are concerned.

Teaching strategies such as how to speak during conflict, that they are not to blame etc will also stop a lot of behaviour when the child in the middle can stand up and state "you are hurting me with your actions"

When you are swimming down a creek and an eel bites your cheek, that's a Moray.
Although I can understand the practabilities in older children Jadzia it is still putting the responsibility back on the child, this would mean mum,dad and the system in a worse case scenario, that would really put the child as a mediator for their parents. Effectively increasing conflict as one or other parent tries to blame the other for creating the situation.

Coping techniques from a neutral ground would be good to help the child and support them but being assertive does not work unfortunately but rather draws them into the conflict where more tools are used against them such as guilt and fear.

In the article a suggestion of parenting help scenario's are hinted towards. If this is subject to successful completion it may stand in better stead for the child, mum and dad learn how to deal and be grown ups. If dad passes first then he is allotted more constructive time with the children up to 50/50 mum keeps attending till she passes subject to penalty and vise versa.

I think this would help put concentration back on the waring factions and encourage to reduce conflict effectively keeping BIC but accepting the importance to the child of both parent.

Adel Horin has taken snippets of a larger article then used them to structure an article aimed to cause discussion to expand her personal public awareness simply put she is a reporter. I have read other article of hers and she has no to little affiliation with good journalism in my humble opinion.

Supplying the link to the article in it's entirety I was hoping would insight discussion on misleading story's which it is important to discuss as well as the truth of where the article came from and it's true agenda.

Allowing true discussion on the original topic although I thought I placed it in a different area but short term memory loss what can I say  O_o    

With a little care, parents can share

A response, by Professor Patrick Parkinson, to the 4 March article in the SMH by Adele Horin (appended) follows.

Copies of Jennifer McIntosh's & Richard Chisholm's report mentioned can be found at:

Shared Care and Children's Best Interests in Conflicted Separation: A Cautionary Tale from Current Research - PDF, 344KB

Cautionary Notes on the Shared Care of Children in Conflicted Parental Separation - HTML webpage
The Sydney Morning Herald
6 March 2008

With a little care, parents can share
By Patrick Parkinson

A Herald report on the increase in shared parenting arrangements after couples separate raises alarm bells. There is indeed, cause for concern.

Jenn McIntosh, a highly respected child psychologist, found substantial levels of shared care in cases resolved in the family law system - much more so than in the general population of separated parents. Many of these parents are in very high conflict, and children suffer when exposed to that conflict. McIntosh found that many of these children were not doing well in shared care situations.

The more often children move between households, the more opportunity there is for argument. When kids are moving between homes during the school week, there can be additional problems. How do they sort it out if a child does not have her sports kit or homework at the right home that day?

Some parents deal with these issues without fuss, but others use them as opportunities for blame games and point-scoring.

Yet the Herald report needs to be put into perspective. First, McIntosh did not report that there was a massive growth in equal time arrangements. Her definition of shared care was that the children spend at least five nights a fortnight with each parent. That is a valid definition, but a nine-five split in days each fortnight is not the same as equal time.

Secondly, there has not been a huge change in patterns of parenting arrangements after separation. The standard pattern of contact for non-resident parents who live within a reasonable distance of each other used to be every other weekend and half the school holidays. Now, when parents live near one another, the trend is for weekends to be defined as Friday afternoon to Monday morning, and for the children to stay overnight with the other parent for one night during the middle of each week.

That is five nights a fortnight, (and rather more than this when half the school holidays are added in) but it is not greatly different from the old standard pattern of weekend and holiday contact. Experts have been saying for years that it is not good for younger children to have a 12-day gap between visits to the other parent. But McIntosh's research does suggest that in high conflict families, even a nine-five split may be detrimental to some children.

Thirdly, many of the parents in McIntosh's court sample reached shared parenting arrangements on an interim basis only. That is, the court made a decision, or the parents reached an agreement, only about what should happen in the next few months, not for the long term. One way to "reality test" shared parenting is to try it for a while.

Many such arrangements will break down, and that experience can help the parents to develop more workable arrangements for the future. Children also suffer significantly from ongoing litigation, and a temporary agreement that is not at all optimal for the child might be a lesser evil than going to trial. Nonetheless, we need to be better at predicting which shared care arrangements are unlikely to work from the beginning.

Fourthly, conflict tends to diminish. Parents can be very raw and angry in the aftermath of separation. As time passes, most parents manage to rebuild their lives and move on.

McIntosh's study reports on relatively short time frames. To assess what is happening, we need to follow families in shared parenting arrangements over a longer period of time and to measure children's adjustment, as she plans to do.

Finally, there are good reasons why the law changed. It wasn't just pressure from fathers' groups. Research - in Australia and overseas - shows that many children want more time with the non-resident parent. The international research also shows that children benefit from the active involvement of both parents where both parents are competent in the parental role, committed to it and can manage to work together without high conflict.

Too often, substantially shared care can be the best compromise between highly conflicted parents, rather than the best outcome for the children.

Shared care can be good, as McIntosh says, when parents are focused on their children's interests, not their own rights. For some parents, there just isn't the degree of selflessness, wisdom and forgiveness to make it work.


Patrick Parkinson is a professor of law at the University of Sydney and special counsel at Watts McCray Lawyers. He chaired the Family Law Council from 2004 to 2007.
The invasiveness and judgement of others - i.e. the section of the community who are divorced with children is very interesting. It's like everyone who has done gender studies at university is qualified to analyse something which is highly INDIVIDUALISTIC (it depends on the individuals) or is something THEY ARE ON A MISSION WITH.

I know its good media chaff but what about concentrating on how useless some married people are and the damage they cause to their children?

I mean - have you seen what some of those people do?

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
Being a third party to a "high conflict" family, but one where my partner is not creating or participating in the "high conflict", I can assure you that whatever level of care is decided the ex will continue to create conflict. That is because the only acceptable level of interaction is nil. Tell me how that's in the best interests of the child?

Unless there is analysis into the mental state of the parents in the high conflict end of the spectrum, any social commentary is quite useless.

I'm revving up for a big post on the weekend. I've been researching high conflict and narcissistic personality disorder and come up with some interesting findings. I will be drawing my conclusions from presentations made by Australian mediation bodies who see the phenomenon up close and personal.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Has anyone to read the original article by Jenny McIntosh where the information has come from?

It doesn't look like Professor Patrick Parkinson has researched, before his comments, and rather been reactionary in his response to other articles designed by reporters adding to sensationalism.

It truly is worth the 20 minutes taken to read the whole article properly. One thing you need to focus on is how often and where mother and father are used and how they are being represented. This is an exercise not in blame but rather perception.
Jadzia said
I think there needs to be a real push on teaching children of highly volatile splits on how to cope with the situation and to be assertive with parents where their own needs are concerned.

Teaching strategies such as how to speak during conflict, that they are not to blame etc will also stop a lot of behaviour when the child in the middle can stand up and state "you are hurting me with your actions"
It is a real problem where the "lives with parent" continues to maintain a regime of exclusion for the other parent and at every juncture finds some excuse why the "spends time with parent" cannot have contact.The child cannot possibly even begin to understand why one parent treats the other in such an inhumane way. After some months and years of indoctrination and alienation (many posts about that here) the child (ren) consider it all quite normal to see the other parent for so little of the time.

It is the nasty vindictive parent who needs some education but they are to dis-functionally challenged to entertain such. That is the very reason we will continue to deal with them in no uncertain terms by pressing for, and making further and further and further changes to the Family Law Act. You cannot make a mad crazed dog do the right thing without serious intervention. If the FRC's wont deliver the outcomes and the Judiciary then we will deliver them through continued legislation reforms.

The response, by Professor Patrick Parkinson, to the 4 March article in the SMH by Adele Horin (appended) was timely as the legal profession appear to have taken the report to mean "Here is a way out for us not to give equal or substantially equal contact arrangements" (s65daa). The report sampling is so flawed I couldn't get a better result in my street if I canvassed intact families in relation to conflictive matters.

It perturbs me greatly that these academia reports coming from Government funded institutions are so off the mark yet quickly taken up as factual authoritve pieces.


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
 
D4E said
No disrespect to any who have posted or commented but has anyone actually gone to the link that was provided to read the original article by Jenny McIntosh where the information has come from?

It doesn't look like Professor Patrick Parkinson has researched before his comments, and rather been reactionary in his response to other articles designed by reporters adding to sensationalism.

It truly is worth the 20 minutes taken to read the whole article properly. One thing you need to focus on is how often and where mother and father are used and how they are being represented. This is an exercise not in blame but rather perception.
There is a lot of material being discussed in the SPCA and Execs closed forums on 'the professor' that does not make it into the public forums for a number of reasons. However suffice to say the professor has produced nothing new and nothing the SPCA has previously made available. To a certain extent she is 'doing a Bob Carr' and re announcing something like it is a wonderful new piece of research.

Of course Parkinson is reactionary in his response - if anything he has better and more up to date information provided via the AG when Parkinson was Howard's advisor.

Comments on any of these finding or 'research'  are always welcome in the public forums.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Thanks Agog is there information that can be read regarding articles by Parkinson or reference material.

When I did read the article by McIntosh I perceived it as being able to be spun in a positive way that puts the aggressor as source of conflict and hence not in the best interest of the child to be with.

Although misrepresentation of the report would contrive to diminish shared real time care the true essence seem to concentrate on reduction in conflict.

Those of course who want conflict to continue will see different in the report and express it as meaning shared care is bad where I look at it and see conflict is bad.

I now see the value of Parkinsons opinion.

As McIntosh remarked in her report though, small sample limited coverage and a larger study need to be done.

Because of the limited scope of reporters these days and how they simply chose limited sections on reports one really has to read the reports that the articles pertain to for relevance.

Perhaps I make too many positives assumptions from what I have read. :$
'Googling' will produce a lot of links to his material and particularly to his involvement with Howard during some of the 'changes' that occurred to the new CSA amendments.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
I think, having the generous heart that you have D4E, read the good research and focussed on that. Unfortunately, my analysis is that Ms Mcintosh focus's on small sample size research, with a particular slant in mind, and then draws some mighty long bows.

You could use her logic and say, Divorce/Separation is traumatic for children - so let's not allow it….

Shared parenting can be difficult in high conflict couples, but it's not that detrimental that it should be discontinued and many, many studies show that it is beneficial.

There is a lot more going on in high conflict families than Dad = bad, Mum = good.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 

ABC report of McIntosh-Chisholm anti shared care parenting advocacy research

More scaremongering propaganda.

Good comments from Edward Dabrowski, the federal director of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia:
Ed Dabrowski, Federal Director, SPCA said
One of the biggest stressors for kids is the loss of a parent. So shared parenting alleviates a lot of that. What we come down to at the end of the day when people are shared parenting is a level of inconvenience but really, it pales into insignificance compared to the loss of parent. … The research has found that they can effectively parallel parent and continue to enjoy a relationship with their children with very little communication back and forth to the other parent.
ABC Radio National World Today
Broadcast 12:50pm 4 March 2008

Shared care parenting linked to anxious kids: study
Reporter: Jennifer Macey

Audio: You can also listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.

Transcript

ELEANOR HALL: Research into children from divorced families has raised questions about the benefits of shared parenting.

The report, published in the Journal of Family Studies, has found that high-conflict couples are more likely to evenly split parenting duties.

But the research shows that this may not always be in the best interests of the children, as Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: Since the Family Law Act was amended in 2006, courts are encouraging parents to evenly divide their care responsibilities.

But two new studies show that for children of acrimonious parents, shared-care may not be the best solution.

Dr Jennifer McIntosh from La Trobe University is the clinical director of a family psychology consultancy.

JENNIFER MCINTOSH: We found that in both studies, children, particularly younger children under 10, whose care was shared at five nights a fortnight or more, and whose care was shared between parents who did not get along, who were in conflict, and who weren't very available to the child, these children were doing poorly.

JENNIFER MACEY: Dr McIntosh and her colleagues interviewed 77 parents before the Family Court, involving over 100 children.

And in a second study, they tracked 183 high-conflict parents of 300 children who were undergoing mediation.

The research found that parents who needed help from the courts were more likely to enter into an equal parenting situation.

JENNIFER MCINTOSH: The reason that's a bit of a worry is that these parents who went to court or went to mediation were struggling to work out their arrangements, were struggling to communicate, were struggling to cooperate, and we know that those factors are basic tenets of effective shared parenting.

JENNIFER MACEY: The reports co-author Richard Chisholm is a former Family Court Judge and honorary professor at the University of Sydney.

He says the amendments to the law aren't at fault, but there may be a problem with the interpretation of the law.

RICHARD CHISHOLM: Although some people might think that it creates a kind of strait-jacket in which there has to be equal sharing or something like equal sharing in all cases except the most obvious ones where there's violence or something like that, the legislation doesn't say that at all.

JENNIFER MACEY: But parent groups argue that time split evenly between both parents is in the best interests of the children.

Edward Dabrowski is the federal director of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia.

He says the studies are too small to be representative.

EDWARD DABROWSKI: One of the biggest stressors for kids is the loss of a parent. So shared parenting alleviates a lot of that. What we come down to at the end of the day when people are shared parenting is a level of inconvenience but really, it pales into insignificance compared to the loss of parent.

JENNIFER MACEY: The report says shared parenting works well in some families, but among high-conflict couples, children are often exposed to fights, tension-ridden changeovers between two houses, and the ongoing denigration of one parent by another.

But Mr Dabrowski says it's not important for both parents to get along to make shared parenting work.

EDWARD DABROWSKI: The research has found that they can effectively parallel parent and continue to enjoy a relationship with their children with very little communication back and forth to the other parent.

JENNIFER MACEY: The authors stress that this paper is not an argument for or against shared care arrangements, but say it's a reason for courts and parents to be cautious.

ELEANOR HALL: Jennifer Macey reporting.

Media


Thanks Dad4Life.

Mr Dabrowski summed up the situation I find myself in, which is parallel parenting, where only necessary contact is made. This works perfectly and tensions have dropped as far as conflict goes.

I keep forgetting that not everyones BIC is the same as others, how much easier it would be if true BIC was considered.

I guess too much of listening to Eric Idle's "Always look on the bright side."
1 guest and 0 members have just viewed this.

Recent Tweets