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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.

Unfortunately, there will always be people out there who cannot differentiate themselves from their child/ren. This is why their concept of BIC is self interest.

I believe it's part of a mental disorder and high time the court recognised it as such.

Counsellors are beginning to, because with the new system of mediation and concilliation, they are having to deal with these incredibly difficult people.

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. 
Maybe I to am on the "Always look on the bright side" but found McIntosh quite apt, high conflict in any family relationship of marriage, de-facto, or seperated leads to child dysfunction in society and it is this piont the Court needs to start to be made aware of. It is not only the 5-20% of seperated families they are seeing but 5-20% of dysfunctional families who have now sought the Court give them guidence by Orders as that is the only thing they will with force comply with.

An intent of McInosh's report

No-Justice said
Maybe I to am on the "Always look on the bright side" but found McIntosh quite apt, high conflict in any family relationship of marriage, de-facto, or separated leads to child dysfunction in society…
If we lived in a fair and unbiased world McIntosh's report would be a straightforward reporting those minority of relationships with high conflict issues.

But we don't and you need to understand her bias and motivation: her intent is to create a tool and push that will diminish shared parenting.

It was first published in a lawyers' magazine, not a family one.  That's one clue.  And she has been very high profile, flying around the country, promoting the dangers of shared parenting.

Those in the anti-dad know, have already started quoting this report in meetings and forums … and some have tried it on in court (but thus far been rebuffed).

One effect of her report is create doubt amongst counsellors, FRC staff, lawyers, judiciary, etc and get them 'thinking' with the intent for for them to err on the 'safe' side and deny shared parenting.  So all Mum has to do is 'create' "high conflict" and sole maternal custody is almost guaranteed.
"Always look on the bright side" is a common position taken by us men who do not have the full story so your point is taken and accepted, no challenge meant or I assumed taken. Ignorance is always blissful till it bites u in the behind.
Today Monteverdi attended a Law Society presentation at which this report was again mentioned and discussed. He will either publish tonight or tomorrow on what was said and by whom. It will make for interesting reading!

So perhaps further comment should await his report

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

Dr Tom Altobelli Young Lawyers, except one or two, seminar.

 At a recent Young Lawyers Seminar, Dr Tom Altobelli FM gave a speech called 'Hot Topics in Kid's Matters.' In this speech he spoke about two recent reports:

1. McIntosh, J. and Chisholm, R. (2008), 'Shared Care and Children's best interest in Conflicted Separation: A Cautionary tale from current research', Australian Family Lawyer, 20(1), pp.3-17.

2. McIntosh, J. & Long, C. (2007), 'The Child Responsive Program, operating within the Less Adversarial Trail: A follow up study of parent and child out comes', Report to the Family Court of Australia.

A focus of both studies was the mental health outcomes of children.  The studies used measures that distinguished children with normal occurring levels of anxiety from those children in the "clinical range".

Clinical range means a concerning level of emotional distress, shown in anxiety, sadness, and clinginess, psycho-somatic and anti social behaviour, at a level that requires intervention by counselling or special children's psychiatrist.

The average rate of clinical anxiety is 14% in non divorced children in Australia. For children of divorced parents who have been through community based dispute resolution, the figure is 21% in the first study and 28% in the second study.

What contributed to the poor out come of these children? Using regression modelling, the first study came up with 6 main points:

- Fathers had low levels of formal education.

- There was high, ongoing inter-parental conflict.

- Children's overnight care was substantially shared (meaning at least 5/14 nights per fortnight);

- Mother-child relationship was poor, as reported by mother and child;

- There was high acrimony between parents; and;

- The child in question was under 10 years old,

In the second study (where parents had been through the Child Response Pilot in the Family Court), the following 5 points were found:

- Child unhappy with their living and care arrangements;

- Resident parent's relationship with child had deteriorated over the past 4 months;

- The child lived in substantially shared care (meaning 5/14);

- One parent had concerns about the child's safety with the other parent;

- The parents remained in high conflict.

In the McIntosh and Chisholm research concluded that 5/14 shared care arrangements may be risky for children's healthy emotional development, especially if one of the following occurs:

- Low levels of maturity and insight.

- A parent's poor capacity for emotional availability to the child.

- Ongoing, high stress levels conflict;

- Ongoing significant psychological acrimony between parents;

- Child seen to be at risk in the care of one parent.

- Under 10 years old;

- The child not happy with a shared arrangement;

- The child experiences a parent to be poorly available to them.

The results of these studies show us nothing new; they are in keeping with the findings of Johnston et al (1998), the maturity of the parents to manage their conflict and to move beyond egocentric decision making, to passive co-operation, would seem to be the benchmark.

Dr Tom Altobelli did state, that the report by McIntosh and Chisholm 'does not say that shared care does not work.' It says that shared care does not work when there is high conflict. Dr Tom Altobelli said that the McIntosh report had been incorrectly reported in the media.

Dr Tom Altobelli FM, did say to those present at the seminar who disliked shared care, " The McIntosh report is not your answer," - shared care works for most people.

The conclusion of the McIntosh report states the following:

Neither the general conditions for children's healthy emotional development nor the specific new findings described in the report, contradict the core principle underpining the new legislation, namely that most children will benefit from having both parents actively and co-operatively involved in their lives after separation.


Part two

Some observations about the McIntosh report

The report warns us that what is at stake is the mental health of children. While the rates of clinical anxiety of 21% and 28% are high compared to the normal rate of 14%, the rate for children those parents had gone through the adversarial trial was 46%.
One of the most important practical points that the McIntosh report makes is that it is important for professionals to identify family contexts that do not have the basic structure or relational requirements to make substantially shared care a viable option.
How do we identify those cases? The report provides a list to use as a diagnostic tool. If several of these factors on the list are present in your case, then extra care needs to given when considering orders to be made. Evidence will have to be presented about them in such a way that is proportional to the significant issue.

Many of the findings in the McIntosh report are consistent with an earlier report, "Children's Adjustment in Sole Custody compared to Joint Custody Families and Principles for Custody Decision Making," by Janet R Johnston 1995.

She found there were few, if any, significant differences in the adjustment of children in the different custody arrangements. Custody arrangements clearly changed over time, with a great deal of self-selection going on to find the best for the families.
Janet R Johnston goes on to say at page 420, " A small minority of divorcing parents remain in ongoing high conflict. This small group constitutes about 10% of all divorcing families (Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992). On going high conflict is identified by multiple criteria, a combination of factors that tend to be, but are not always, associated with each other: intractable legal disputes, ongoing disagreement over day to day parenting practices, expressed hostility, verbal abuse, physical threats, and intermittent violence. Research findings to date indicate that high conflict divorced parents have a relatively poor prognosis for developing co operative co parenting arrangements without a great deal of therapeutic and legal intervention. Those parents who met the multiple criteria of high conflict at the time of divorce were likely to remain conflicted over a 2 to 3 year period. At best, they were less likely to become more co-operative over this period of time.

Last edit: by monteverdi


Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
Thank you for the fine commentary on the I look forward to the next part, it seems to put a lot of emphasis on parental responsibility which can not be bad.

Cheers monteverdi   
 The misuse of statistics and reports is commonplace.

As I have said previously - if anyone is interested in real statistical analysis they would approach the ABS and ask them to do the study. It is -  after all - why they exist as an organization and they actually have a methodology which is far more aware of bias than the legal system has.

If people are doing research outside the ABS - they are in many cases - doing to make their own point because they know they may not get the same result if they use the ABS.

Fundamentally the report is flawed and nonsense - in so many ways - too many to count.

One example is the comparison between high conflict shared care with non divorced.  Choosing what to compare this to is a standard technique and many groups use partial comparative analysis to make their case. E.g. Paul McCartney has more money than I have so the government needs to give me more money (or teach me how to write songs).

One of the biggest misuses of reports is the logic between statistical correlation (sounds impressive doesn't it) and causal analysis.

Just because statistics say x% of red cars crash it does not mean you have an x% chance of crashing your red car.

I am pretty sure the people who do reports who DON'T REPORT THEIR BIASES are doing the report because they are biased - otherwise why produce a report in the first place? I mean who framed this original research and was their intent to try to see what parenting outcomes they should make?

In my personal circumstances I had shared care for many years and now have main care (except for 3 nights per fortnight) under very high conflict.

Divorce is a natural part of Australian life (not on the scale of USA) and there are variations depending on the people involved. Given that the government systems of family court and CSA actually facilitate conflict by allowing (a full list not supplied here) - unsubstantiated accusations to be treated as evidence, not punishing lawbreakers or liars, and giving money to people who can claim children - maybe they should be concentrating on those parts of the SYSTEM which facilitate conflict.

Last edit: by Jon Pearson


 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
I would like to know who is assessing the children of high conflict as presenting with higher levels of anxiety. IF it is a clinician, who is talking directly to the child, that is one thing. IF the study is performed by giving the "lives with" parent a checklist, I would highly doubt the validity of the results.

The other way to test results is to see what the anxiety levels are like in households that are not shared care. But as Jon says, what would this correlation tell us - not a great deal.

High conflict divorced/separated families are always going to be the most problematic to deal with. This is because one or sometimes both parties, have difficulty accessing empathy and reaching a concensus decision. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water (and getting rid of shared parenting) why not give these couples some extra counselling in order to have them cope better with the situation and thus not transfer their problems to their children.

Here's another thought, perhaps the child's anxiety stems, not from the separation and shared parenting, but perhaps because they are living with the main protagonist of the high conflict former couple?

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. 
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