Thursday, February 27, 2014

My new article on Shared Parenting provides an intersectional review of a consensus report by Richard A Warshak and the Woozle Effect by Linda Nielsen along with my clinical observations

27 February 2014

I have recently completed an article titled Correcting misconceptions on Shared Parenting for children under age 4 years. A review of a consensus report by Richard A Warshak and the Woozle Effect by Linda Nielsen. An Article for parents, practitioners and policy makers regarding parenting time which dispels much of the falsehoods surrounding Shared Parenting. Here I have provided a synopsis and a few highlights.

Two recent articles when taken together demonstrate that opposition to Shared Parenting by policymakers and judicial officers is not supported by current research but may be supported by misrepresentations of the data. The first article, Woozles: Their Role in Custody Law Reform, Parenting Plans, and Family Court, comes from Linda Nielsen, Department of Education, Wake Forest University who reminds us of the “woozle effect” which was popularized by a Domestic Violence researcher, Richard Gelles. The woozle effect as Gelles saw it was the misrepresentation of research findings to support a particular political purpose. The effect is borne of tenuous claims or those only partially supported by the empirical evidence which ignore that which does not support the agenda but is then applied much more broadly as it is repeated and cited beyond its original scope. The second article, Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report by Richard A Warshak details how the lack of clinical support for Shared Parenting that much of the papers, data, and presumptions supporting policies against Shared Parenting seem to have were a result of being tainted by the woozle effect.

While Nielsen referred to the broad topic of public policy in general in her article she did remind us that family law is an area in which woozling might be especially likely to occur: Quoting Johnson in support, “Distortions and misuses of social science data in family law matters derive partly from the political nature of the issues and from gender wars.”

In his article Warshak presented the result of a two year analysis of the various reports relating to early childhood parenting by separated parents. Warshak's stated purpose is “to provide the family court system — including lawmakers, mediators, decision-makers, parents, guardians ad litem, child custody evaluators, and therapists – with an overview of the research on parenting plans for children under the age of four years whose parents live apart, and to provide empirically supported guidelines that reflect a consensus among leading researchers and practitioners about the implications of that research for policy and practice.”

A multidisciplinary group of experts, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, met in 1994. This group issued a report which recommended that both parents be included in the children's “bedtime and waking rituals, transitions to and from school, extracurricular and recreational activities” among other things.

Warshak's analysis of multiple studies failed to find support for the hypothesis that overnights with fathers has a negative outcome for children, including infants. The decade between 2001 and 2011 saw increasing acceptance of overnights among mental health professionals, courts, and parents of infants and toddlers. Policy makers should therefore consider more salient variables when making policy decisions.

The draft article was reviewed by 110 of Warshak's colleagues who provided comments and revisions which contributed to the final article. Although not everyone agreed with every aspect of the article they did unanimously endorse the article's conclusions and recommendations. My end notes and the list of 110 of Warshak's colleagues appear in my article.

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Nielsen has published two books related to parent-child relationships. They are Between fathers and daughters: How to improve your adult relationship (2011)  and Father-Daughter Relationships: Contemporary research and Issues (Routledge, 2012) which are available through her website.    

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