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Spruijt – sliced and diced

February 10, 2010

A critical review of:
Frequency of contact with non-resident fathers and adolescent well-being: A longitudinal analysis; By Spruijt, A.P., Goede, M.P.M. de, Valk, I.E. van der; Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Volume 40, (2004), pp: 77-91

By Peter Tromp & Robert Whiston, June 2009 (Updated February 2010)

Summary

Translating into plain English Ed Spruijt’s paper regarding the frequency of contact with non-resident fathers (see above) one has to conclude that either he is a radical feminist in trousers, who sees little virtue in his own sex, or has wasted his time and the resources of the Utrecht University in accessing the longitudinal study funded by that University.

Longitudinal studies are always expensive to undertake and are always to be preferred over attitudinal studies that can last a day rather than years and seek the immediate response or opinion of those questioned.

Attitudinal studies are cheap but open to manipulation by loaded questions in a way that longitudinal studies are not meant to be. Alas, the Spruijt paper confounds this long held view of superiority; his study appears to be based on only 164 young people, although it is undertaken over several years.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s there were always those in the academic world that argued that fathers were not needed for the successful raising of children. It became a fashionable pose to strike rather than a factual attitude (Appendix 1).

Rebecca O’Neill in “Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” (Sept 2002) describes the mood in this way:

“In the 1970s and 1980s many people argued that the traditional family – based upon a married biological father and mother and their children – was outdated. Under the guise of ‘freedom of choice’, ‘self-fulfillment’, and ‘equal respect for all kinds of families’, feminists and social rebels led a campaign to experiment with different family structures. Sometimes it was claimed that women and children did not need men, and were, in fact, often better off without them. On occasion it was said that families were not breaking down, they were just changing; that the most important thing for children was their parents’ happiness and self-fulfilment; and that children were resilient and would suffer few negative effects of divorce and family disruption. The idea of ‘staying together for the children’s sake’ was often derided. Some parents embraced the new thinking, but not all of those who took part in the ‘fatherless family experiment’ were willing subjects. As the idea that mothers and children did not need fathers took hold, many social and legal supports for marriage weakened. Some mothers and children were simply abandoned. Some fathers were pushed away.”[1]

The 1990s saw those blinkers slowly falling away and the 21st century saw 30 year old reputations begin to crumble as it became increasingly obvious that if two parents are best – a critical point conceded during the1990s – then fathers are equally essential in lone parent families. A point unequivocally conceded by the UK Government in 2007 when “Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility” was published by the UK Department for Works and Pensions. [2]

The ‘liberation’ of women that feminist sought, and partially achieved, had the result of either precipitating a social collapse or of coinciding with that collapse (see for example the falling of fertility rate (TFR) and average completed family size (CFS) sinking below the reproduction level in the United Kingdom in 1971 in Fig 1).

The ONS diagram shown here represents actual and predicted total fertility rate (TFR) and average completed family size (CFS), for 1951–2025 (United Kingdom).[3]

An unexpected complication faced all across Europe is the potential impossibility of funding pensions – principally for retired women who live the longest.

Feminist legislation penalised men when they divorced and gradually this had the effect of deflating marriage rates, lowering replacement rates and limiting family size.

All across Europe measures have been put in place to generously support if not reward lone motherhood while at the same time detaching fathers from their children.

Sue Slipman’s book “Would You Take One Home with You ?[4] epitomises the contemporary view of female superiority and invincibility – though this female arrogance was based on unspoken subsidies from the taxpayer (see also “Price of Parenthood” by Jill Kirby, Centre for Policy Studies, 2005).

Fortunately for humanity, the concession of the indispensability of fathers was squeezed out of a reluctant academia not by elegant theories but by truths that could not be overturned and by ‘outcomes’ which could not be countered.

One of the first to point out the fallacies and flawed thinking in the feminist dogma was Patricia Morgan in her groundbreaking book “Farewell to the Family ?” This was quickly followed by publication of “Charles Murray & the Underclass – The Developing Debate” by Charles Murray et al. Dec. 1996, IEA.

1. The debate has moved on

To summarise, Ed Spruijt’s paper embraces much of this now discredited feminist dogma; a dogma that finds it impossible to accept that fathers should play any sort of significant role in the development of growing children.

Ed Spruijt, who also writes under the title of A. P. Spruijt, concludes in his 2002 paper (“Frequency of Contact with Non-resident Fathers and Adolescent Well-Being: A Longitudinal Analysis”), that the frequency of contact (called ‘visitation’ rights in the US and the Netherlands) between a non-resident parent, i.e. the father, and a child is not generally connected to a child’s general well-being. In the Dutch public and media debate on divorce issues Spruijt presents himself (and also unfortunately is presented) as one of the leading experts in issues of children of divorce. His recurring theme is one that emphasises the unimportance of fathers and that fathers don’t matter as much as they would like to believe (cf. fathers groups such as ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ and others; see Joep Zander; accessed on 9th February 2010 [5]).

Spruijt ignores the reality that the latest government and academic thinking now reflects the views held by fathers groups for the past 30 years.

Instead, he appears wedded to the notion that if children don’t see their fathers they will be fine (Anna Freud in the 1940s had a similar out-dated attitude). He adopts this stance on the pretext that children who have to grow up in families where there is ‘conflict’ between the parents will be ‘damaged.’ The logic of this misguided view is therefore to conclude that all contact is damaging to children and that all fathers should be shut out of their children’s lives. (He does not explain how children can grow ‘undamaged’ in households where the parents are married but have an average number of arguments).

This, of course, is the radical feminist’s ideal state of affairs, their nirvana is a social order where men can be excluded at will from their children and permanent marriage abolished.

A paradise where a woman can choose to be pregnant or not – and by who; where she can abort any pregnancy without reference to anyone, especially the father; to not have to worry about income or housing; to not be dependent on a man and choose to not have a man around the place.

Behind the public gloss of seeking a favorable reception these are the raw attributes that all Feminist Theories and morals have, for the past 40 years, sought to achieve. Paradoxically these ‘modern’ theories are premised on 19th century writings and on men with bizarre views of women and family such as Friedrich Engels (Appendix 2).

To then realise that the author of these contaminated thoughts is the main expert spokesperson for the Dutch version of CAFCASS (Raad voor de Kinderbescherming) is both a body blow to children and fathers and a contradiction to any claim the Kinderbescherming may make about its fairness towards both parents.

2. Repressing Numbers

It is essential for those within the Kinderbescherming to realise that there are two simple elements, two estates, in all separated families that must not be lost sight of. Firstly, the ‘good enough parent’ and secondly the ‘not so good enough parent.’ Both categories contain a wide range of diversity but it is the not so good enough parent which is numerically much smaller.

For example, in England, CAFCASS recognises 5% of all parents pose problems of varying seriousness.

The reciprocal of this is that 80% to 90% of parents are ‘good enough parents’ and pose no problems (Pareto’s law). The following illustration (Fig 2) depicts the proportions involved.

It is therefore utter madness that national custody matters should be decided by a minority 5% of parents when policy should be determined by what is happening in the majority of instances.

Policy should be dictated by rules suitable for the majority of cases with exceptions and provisions made therein for the tiny minority who represent what CAFCASS terms intractable cases among the ‘not so good enough’ parents.

Nevertheless, this is the premise adopted by Spruijt when he states that because there is a possibility of conflict in some families, all families must be judged the same.

When he concluded in 2004 that frequency of contact between a non-resident parent and a child was not generally to children’s well-being, he camouflaged the scenario he was describing, namely, one where ‘high conflict’ levels in a small number of families have negative effects upon children (this is the same ploy used by feminist writers, e.g. J. Hunt, B. Neale).

Could there be any other outcome, one wonders ? On both sides of the argument, fathers and Spruijt, there is common agreement that conflict and violence, tension and stress in the home is bound to affect children’s emotional and psychological well-being.

It is so obvious, that it doesn’t need to be stated ? But does it need to be used as a poor excuse to bar to all fathers when the same could be said of equally destructive mothers ?

The conflation of good family experiences with bad ones is typical of a certain section of academia. One has in mind here the work of the English academics Joan Hunt and Brenda Neale.[6] Both decry shared or co-parenting. However, upon closer examination of their methodology one discovers they are focusing on “high conflict” families.

One also finds that the academic definition of co-parenting – the term constantly preferred to that of shared parenting – is the reason for much resistance.

Co-parenting is defined as encompassing children who spend more than 40% of their time with one parent. This is not what fathers groups define as shared parenting; they see shared parenting as a post divorce joint venture with no rigidly set of hours or days per parent. They see shared parenting as fully flexible and ranging from say, 20:80 to 50:50 and to 80:20, if the mother’s work patterns demand it.

In 2001, the percentage of children in the Netherlands who were subject to a co-parenting (shared parenting) agreement totaled 4% (Ed Spruijt, Scheidingskinderen, 2007, pp. 17-18). This data is based upon a group of children with divorced parents, including 17% of children whose parents had co-habited – this is also cited by Christina G. Jeppesen de Boer. [7]

Is it any wonder that there is ‘little evidence to support shared parenting’ and similar claims, when it is only 4% of the total population ?

It is at this junction of a). 4% and b). high conflict families that the true extent of the problem is revealed to be not huge but incredibly small. High conflict families are everywhere spoken of as if numerous and associated with shared parenting. And yet why should this be so when a category restricted to 4% must surely be manageable ?

3. The Conflict Myth

It seems alien to their thought processes that all the alternatives of post-divorce arrangements could prove to be unsuitable for some of these ‘high conflict’ families – and that would include sole mother custody.

Some, but not all, ‘high conflict’ families pose a threat to children but many such families can manage successfully with a little outside assistance.

However, the emotional volatility of mothers in these families is such that the risk of child abuse is higher and a child’s safety can only be improved by the presence of a father (Appendix 3). Australian data, post 2006 reforms, show that it is instability of mothers that is most likely to produce father preference custody – albeit shared.

The academics’ collective answer to tackling the fall-out from these ‘high conflict’ families is a blanket ban on fathers from seeing their children. This assumes the dysfuntionality stems either from the father alone or from the friction resulting by the social interchange between father and mother. This, despite the conventional wisdom, valid until the 1980s as Spruijt admits, where “it was more or less taken for granted that contact between the non-resident parent and the children was always positive (Crombach & Elzinga, 1989).”

However, there is another source of conflict, namely the instability of the mother herself. Since she is left alone once the authorities have detached the father from the family, we have little idea how children fare with a mother who might be in need of psychological support and can no longer pick on or bully the visiting father. Indeed, judicially orphaned children may create a climate of friction for the newly divorced mother that she cannot then cope with.

In Britain, which has seen a surge in the numbers of child abuse cases in the past 30 years (and the increasingly horrific nature of those abuses), Lord Laming has twice been asked by government to report on how and why children are abused.

The conclusion of Lord Laming’s second report (May 2009) is that when all the state apparatus has failed it is fathers in the final analysis that help keep children safe from abuse. [8] A conclusion pioneered by Patricia Morgan in 1995.

Rebecca O’Neill is only one of many writers who have recently pointed to the low self-esteem and psychological unsuitability of many women. The day treatment rate for women/mothers in need of psychiatric help is far greater than for men/fathers. The admittance into psychiatric facilities is also dominated by women. [9]

The upshot of Lord Laming’s second report (into child abuse) is that the public is finally aware of what was previously swept under the carpet, namely that in Britain 200,000 children are at risk of abuse in their own homes and that as many as 350,000 children have parents who have serious drug habits.

When another 1.3 million children live with parents who drink heavily one has to question whether the present custody bias is fair to children, and whether focusing on ‘conflict’ between parents is actually the most important thing for children’s safety after divorce (Appendix 3).

4. The New Face of Conflict and Aggression

The words, aggressive, violent and hostile all conjure up images associated with men and, indeed, Spruijt’s paper trades on this misconception.

The ratio of male violence to female violence and its propensity in everyday life has been rapidly closing since the 1980s (see D. Dutton, Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz 1980, etc). Spruijt and fellow sociologists have yet to absorb this dynamic into their academic work.

Those that give an opinion about violence in general, and in particular about domestic violence and even of rape, write as if from a 19th century moral stance. They have yet to move on and embrace the female morals of the 21st century.

Perceptions have changed – some would say radically – of how women see themselves and how they behave. What women today see as tolerable and their right, academics might not agree.

The ‘Ladette culture’ is just such an expression of modern female perceptions. Below is a not untypical scene of girl violence to be found nightly on British streets up and down the country.

Three girls are caught on a town’s CCTV assaulting not another girl but a young man. One is keeping him still on the ground while another repeatedly kicks him.

The age group that poses the most danger to society’s fabric is the 16 to 22 age category.

These are the girls who will, in a few short years, move on to become pregnant, mothers and then separated mothers.

Partying’ is another new dimension. Never in social history have young mothers deliberately left their infants at home while they ‘party’ returning the early hours sodden with alcohol.

What sort of non-resident father would want to tangle with mothers like these ?

The abandonment of deferred gratification is the direct by-product of materialism and the feminist movement behind it.

Not content with fighting men they fight one another.

It is the police who have to break up the drunken and brawling women with the insipient risk of being falsely accused of improper touching or handling of the suspect who may be resisting arrest.

The situation in most large urban areas became so grave that in 2004 a UK Select Committee looked into the situation and the trend in violent women arrests.[10]

Further information on this aspect of modern female behaviour can be found at:

In June 2009 it emerged the number of women involved in alcohol-related trouble has increased by almost a third in two years while, in May 2009, figures showed females are now involved in a quarter of violent attacks. The number of women convicted for domestic violence has also risen sharply and has been blamed on an aggressive “ladette” culture…

5. Pathologies

Pathologies among children such as exhibiting poor school attendance, poor academic achievement, poor discipline, etc, could be indicators of being bullied or picked upon, i.e. victimised, at home.

If, as Spruijt implies, the only important thing for children of divorce is that there is no conflict around them – and in so doing legitimises the basis for barring fathers – then he must be at a loss to explain why children do so well in the traditional married two parent family where conflict and stress is a regular occurrence.

Conversely, why do children of unmarried mothers do poorly when there is little or no fatherly contact and, therefore, little or no levels of conflict ?

Pathologies that characterise SMH (single mother households) are not to be found among the children of a). widows and b). single father households. Spruijt does not begin to tackle this confounding issue.

While not wishing to under-emphasise conflict and tension, learning how to deal with these factors is part of growing up, and arguably is why children from traditional married two parent families are better prepared to lead a successful adult life.

The last four decades have seen a phenomenal increase in the numbers of divorces across the entire western world and somewhat belatedly it is being realised that the model from 40 years ago does not work.

The consequence of refusing to address this deficiency is that the longer we let one divorce year slip into another without remedying the situation, the more damage is done to children.

Until relatively recently it was an imperative to show by scientific research how inconsequential was the damage caused to children by the lack of contact with its non-resident fathers after a divorce.

Spruijt rests much of his case on studies that are now 10 or more years old, e.g. Amato & Gilbreth, 1999, and King & Heard, 1999. Times have moved on since the otherwise much respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) funded a 1998 report by two antipodean academics, Dr. Jan Pryor and Professor Bryan Rodgers (Appendix 4), which concluded that:

“Although short-term distress at the time of separation is common, this usually fades with time and long-term adverse outcomes typically apply only to a minority of children experiencing the separation of their parents.” [11]

Pryor & Rodgers’ report was greeted with howls of disbelief at the time and heavily discounted as being out of touch with reality. However, it epitomised a decade where funded studies (inc. JRF) sought to portray divorce as having little detrimental effect on children.

Amato & Keith began the decade by concluding that parental divorce generally had only small negative effects on the adjustment of children (Amato & Keith, 1991a, and 1991b). How this could have been taken seriously is today difficult to explain considering that from the 1960s through the 1970s the detrimental effect on children was acknowledged to be considerable.

The ‘small negative effects’, experienced by children growing up in families that are not continuously intact, were defined then in a way that would cause concern to us today:

“. . .. adolescents who have gone through the divorce of their parents are more likely to experience emotional problems, less likely to attend or complete college, more likely to display problematic behavior, and more likely to engage in early sex and experience relational problems (Amato & Keith, 1991a, 1991b; Simons, 1996).

These negative effects of divorce apply to young children as well as to adolescents, and both short- and long-term effects have been found (Amato & Keith, 1991a, 1991b; Chase-Lansdale, Cherlin, & Kiernan, 1995).”

However, the Bauserman meta-analysis (2002), demolishes the last defences to this position.

In a meta-analysis of 33 research papers, Bauserman found that children growing up in shared parenting arrangements between both parents after divorce and separation did much better than children growing up under the sole care of one parent. His study confirmed the original better outcomes for children living in shared parenting arrangements that began to emerge in the 1980s.

In ‘The Disposable Parent’ (Roman & Haddad, 1978) it was argued that joint residence was the best post-divorce arrangement and that courts should begin with a rebuttable presumption of joint residence. Roman & Haddad shared with Goldstein, Freud & Solnit, the idea that children need consistency and continuity of affection.

6. Confounding the Custody Convention

Among the themes published in the American Psychological Association journal was that children in shared parenting arrangements exhibited higher levels of self-worth – a classic symptom absent in children of lone mother households.

Bauserman’s analysis showed that, even when taking into account, i.e. “controlling for”, the influences of pre-existing levels of conflict between separating parents, children still fared better in a shared parenting environment. This immediately debunks the popular counter-argument that any beneficial factors of shared parenting rely on families having low or no levels of conflict.

Spruijt seeks to dismiss the importance of fathers by questioning the mainstream assumption, namely, that it is always beneficial for the development of children to have contact with their father. Anna Freud’s singularly perverse contribution to this general discussion was also to advocate the non-involvement of fathers in their children’s lives. [12]

The school of thought that gathered around Anna Freud held that any post–divorce contact between parents was inherently confrontational, dangerous and/or violent. Awarding sole custody to mothers achieved the twin ambitions of limiting a father’s access to his children and restricting any dangerous confrontational scenes with his former wife.

In 1925 Anna Freud had met Dorothy Burlingham the ex-wife of an American millionaire who sought Freud’s psycho-analytical skills for her four children. They were in effect Freud’s guinea pigs but the world would not know for many decades that her treatment of the Burlingham children was an utter disaster. Its lethality led to alcoholism and the suicide of one of the children in Freud’s own home. [13]

Unaware of this experimental disaster (which was deliberately kept a closely guarded secret for over 40 years), academia and the judiciary began embracing the theories on the basis that they were fully tested and functional.

Anna Freud thus became absurdly influential in government circles and in the four decades after 1945. Her false findings powerfully reinforced the gathering assumptions in the UK judiciary, particularly Lord Justice Roger Ormrod who piloted the changes wrought by the 1969 Divorce Reform Act. [14]

Proof that these misguided principles are still affecting nearly every child’s life today is provided by Richard Warshak who writes:

‘They reinforced the folklore, sentiment and sexual stereotypical views of mother as nurturers substituting them for factual information when deciding custody matters.’ [15]

Spruijt believes research shows the relationship between the frequency of contact and a child’s well-being is not well defined.

He supports this view by quoting Amato (1994) and Valarie King (1999), Amato and Gilbreth (1999), who all conclude that the frequency of contact does not relate to the children’s well-being.

7. Parental Authority

Following the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) the legal position in the majority of European countries is that both parents should have parental authority and/or responsibility. This would surely be frustrated if Spruijt’s views were to prevail – or unless he knows (as we know) that having parental authority means nothing, has no teeth and is unconnected with the right to see ones children ?

Yet confusingly for the reader he cites Hines (1997) who maintains “A positive relationship between parent and adolescent may improve the negative consequences of a divorce.”

In his plan to discount fathers’ importance he cites the near 20 year old source of Furstenberg & Cherlin (1991), who state that on the basis of the latest research data (circa 1990) they ‘cannot unhesitatingly advise that regular contact with the non-resident, non-caring parent will always be in the child’s best interest’.

This is so true as to be not worthy of inclusion by Spruijt. No one can say unhesitatingly that regular contact with a non-resident will always be in the child’s best interest – and if asked now, in 2010, they would be far less hesitating one can assume.

One has to take instead a broader view. It is a little disingenuous of Spruijt to include this divisive phrase in his ‘Introduction’ (when it lacks validity in the 21st century) and one suspects this he did knowingly.

There will always be some fathers who pose a problem and therefore a blanket endorsement, i.e. unhesitatingly, is never possible if cast iron guarantees are being sort. But then the same can be said of mothers. Can we unhesitatingly say they always make the best carers ? One only has to look at Fig 2 to realise what an inconsequential point Spruijt is trying to make.

Despite citing Amato & Rezac (1994) and Lamb (1997), who are positive about fathers and the role of the father in the development of children, Spruijt still remains opposed to greater participation by fathers.

8. Inviting Retaliation

Spruijt does make some positive remarks and helpful contributions to our understanding of children of divorce. For instance, he highlights children’s behaviour as being just as influential on parent’s behaviour as much as parent’s behaviour affecting children’s behaviour (something too often overlooked).

He also concedes that there is so little longitudinal research on the subject of frequency of contact after a divorce that it is impossible to predict the validity of results so far available (in other words, the data he presents could be typical or very atypical).

Wearing his academic hat he prefers to stand detached and detail factors such as internalising and externalising the problems of youngsters. He is happy to correlate between the negative and the positive factors and link them to internalised and externalised problems. Perhaps this is how he can cope with the destruction his handling of the subject causes allowing him to leave his psyche as a man untouched.

Few of us have that luxury; we identify our humanity with the suffering of children, with kith and kin and the well being of society.

Were we to cause untold misery, most of us know from lesser experiences that we would have to live with that burden on our consciences forever.

Externalising behaviour is the term given to aggressive or delinquent behaviour, and internalising behaviour is usually defined as symptoms of withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.

Later in this article we will discuss some of Dunn’s findings with regard internalised and externalised problems but for the moment we will focus on Spuijt’s paper.

His sample consisted of 164 young people all drawn from divorced parents. The results showed no significant correlations between frequency of contact with the non-resident father and internalising and externalising problems of youngsters. However, there was some indication that low levels of contact were negatively correlated to externalising problems.

In all probably, low levels of contact is more connected with parental conflict and uncertainty about time and place of visitation. Increasing frequency of contact with the non-resident father over time seems to correlate slightly to diminishing internalised problems.

For many of us it is not good enough to shrug off problems and difficulties by hiding behind platitudes and throw-away remarks such as, “Probably little contact is connected with parental conflict and uncertainty about time and place of visitation.”

One of the most researched topics has to be the correlation between children’s well-being (defined by adults) and the frequency of contact with their non-resident father. However, nearly every study looks at only one time period and assumes that parental factors impact on children – never the more interesting point of how child factors impact on parental attitudes/behaviour (see also Rational Choice Theory).

Children’s ability to internalise and externalise problems created by one (or both) parents will also affect visitation frequency because it will link directly to parental behaviour. The innate characteristics of some children make for an easier transition after divorce than for other children who are more deeply affected – but no one knows why.

It is in everyone’s interests that empirical tests are conducted to map the bi-directional influences between parents and their adolescent children – a course of action emphasized by Rueter and Conger (1998).

To study such effects, it is imperative to use longitudinal data. However, there has been an insufficient number of longitudinal research studies to give a clear picture on the frequency of contact after a divorce. Longitudinal research is necessary to answer the question which comes first, frequency of contact or child problems. At present all we can say with certainty is that the data on ‘outomes’ is the most clear cut in favour of fathers remaining engaged with families.

The problem when contact is limited is that its value increases dramatically and parental conflict will erupt for that finite resource. For parents, certainty of “time and place” is vital.

Limiting contact will not decrease hostilities but stoke up the embers. Interrupting time and place facilities of a precious resource is to invite retaliation.

The attack on Pearl Harbour, in Dec 1941, was precipitated by the American refusal to supply oil to a nation that had no minerals or natural resources of its own. Today, 2009, we see Europe devising strategies to cope with the possibility of Russia again shutting off the gas pipelines that supply the EU’s heating.

In the context of father-child contact, the obvious answer is to increase the amount of time fathers have to visit. The opposite scenario, that is of limiting contact to a few hours per week, hardly makes the special arrangements that have to be made, worthwhile and it is not surprising that across the world contact visits by fathers taper off after a period of time. [16]

9. What Dead beat dads ?

Jonathan Bradshaw’s team at the University of York found that many parents (over 90% were fathers), often on the advice of their solicitors, gave up the unequal struggle of seeing their children or keeping in contact with them. British Government figures confirm the fact that after divorce or separation around 40% of children lose all contact with their fathers after a few years. And Dutch qualitative explorative research by Griffiths and Heckman (1989) indicated the same conclusion for the Netherlands.

  • Bradshaw and Miller, in their 1991 study of lone parents, found that 35% of non-residential (most of whom were fathers) did not maintain contact with their children following divorce.
  • Wicks (1991), estimated that some 750,000 children in England and Wales had lost contact with their fathers. [since then, more divorces have increased that figure – Ed].

Such statistics are viewed as a). unacceptable by politicians and policymakers and b). as undesirable by health and social work practitioners – yet nothing is done to rectify the situation.

Instead, fathers are blamed and labelled as ‘Drop-out dads’ when in truth they are “Pushed out dads.” Fathers cannot be blamed for maladjusted and delinquent children that result especially when it is the professionals, such as Spruijt, that think fathers should have little or no contact with their children.

Shared parenting, with its emphasis on co-parenting, eliminates fatherlessness and the trend toward maladjusted and delinquent children is sharply reduced.

It is an embarrassment to concede that in most Dutch and British families, fathers come to occupy a secondary position to mothers after divorce, and in some cases seem to occupy no position at all – most particularly so after divorce. One suspects this is increasingly true of the rest of Europe.

At this point we touch again the world of semantics. If highly valued contact time is de-limited, i.e. less restricted, it does not become worth less or valueless. On the contrary, it is still valuable and precious – some might say priceless. On that basis, a lasting deal between parents can be struck. By the mother giving more time to the father, the father is less likely to be stressed when she suddenly cancels a scheduled contact visit and more compliant to accept a new time and date. For the mother the benefits are that she has a more elastic environment within which to work and more freedom to prioritise aspects of her own life and widen her own horizons.

10. Power Struggle

Reference has already been made with regard to Pearl Harbor but we can use other geo-political analogies. When the Soviets divorced their former Allies in 1946 and decided in 1948 to blockade Berlin, they believed they had the whip hand.

Stalin calculated he could get away with a blockade by using his trump card of shutting down all land communications to West Berlin. This was his veto – he would be the ‘keeper of the gate’. This should have left the Allies powerless and more amenable to his diktats. But his move was itself trumped by the Berlin Airlift.

The ability to neutralise power play by a belligerent parent (i.e. a Stalin) is not available in the family courts and without countervailing force or sanctions the inevitable happens.

‘Gatekeeping’, the American term for mothers who hold the veto over whether their child sees its father, precipitates unpleasant confrontation and can triggers unwanted actions and or events. Reinforcing such a regime perpetuates the very dangers that feminists are fond of exaggerating (‘Father and Child Reunion’ by Warren Farrell). The growth of this tactic seems to indicate a willingness on behalf of some not to seek solutions and not to give up control of this instrument of sanction over men.

Feminist policy makers (and in the UK there are now many in Whitehall according to Melanie Phillips), are not interested in any alternative where the circumstances surrounding a high conflict family can be lessened and the negative affects constrained – politically it helps them not at all.

Helping both parents so that they can begin to live in harmony by lessening the cause of the friction are not targets on their radar screens.

The presumption is always that the violence and conflict emanates from fathers and never mothers – that invocation is never allowed to be challenged. However, across the civilised world child abuse figures point the accusative finger directly at mothers, e.g. Victoria Climbie (see, for instance, Western Australian child abuse figures at Appendix 5).

“Figures from the Department for Child Protection, obtained by The Sunday Times, show the number of mothers believed responsible for “substantiated maltreatment” has risen from 312 to 427.

In the same period – 2005-06 to 2007-08 – the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155.

A breakdown of all family-based child abuse shows an increase from 960 to 1,505 last year.” [17]

And, based on Yearly reports on child abuse in the Netherlands from 1999, 2000 and 2001 by the Dutch Child Protection and Youth Care Agencies (Advies- en Meldpunten Kindermishandeling AMK), we reported from the Netherlands that:

‘Children, especially boys, growing up in single parent mother-headed families are at twice to 2,5 times the risk of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse and neglect by either the mother herself or her “new friend”, the so-called “stepparent”. ‘ (see ‘The benefits of post-divorce shared parenting‘, Peter Tromp, 2009)

Where non-resident father experience hostility or obstacles trying to secure contact with their children it is not surprising that many should lose interest over time. The personal hurt caused by being thwarted time and again from seeing their children in a tranquil, soothing and satisfying environment leads many fathers to give up, hoping for better prospects once their children are over 18 years old (see also the earlier reference in ‘What Dead beat dads ?’ to ‘the unequal struggle’).

11. Teenage Years

In another regard Spruijt’s review of contact is useful as it covers the procession into the teenage years and into the early twenties. Helpfully he provides a series of tables and shown below (Fig 3) is a table relating to the contact frequency between father and child – albeit limited to a small sample size of 164 children.

Compared to other researchers (including the UK government’s estimate of 40%), his figures seem underestimates both in terms of children who see their fathers only occasionally (T3, 13%) and fathers not able to see their children at all (T3, 32%).

Table 3. The frequency of contact at various points in time: (%age).
T0 T1 T2 T3
% % % %
None at all 27 38 35 32
Less than 4 times a year 08 10 13 13
5 – 11 times a year 06 09 10 15
12 – 23 times a year 13 15 13 14
24 – 47 times a year 22 15 12 13
more than 47 times a year 24 13 17 13
Total 100 100 100 100
131 131 148 164
Source: A.P. Spruijt, University of Utrecht 2002. (n=164, 65 boys and 99 girls all lived with mother).

Spruijt measured how frequently a child saw its father immediately after divorce – this he calls ‘T0’ – which on average was 10 years before the next measurement point of ‘T1.’

In calendar years, T1 is equivalent to 1991, T2 is 1994 and T3 is 1997 (T0 must be circa 1981-83). We are able to see from Fig 3 that the proportion of children that fell into the category where they had no contact at all with their fathers, begins at 27% (T0) in the immediate post divorce era, and then rose only to fall, e.g. 38%, 35%, and then 32% in T3.

The reciprocal of this is that approx. 66% of fathers, and therefore children, saw one another on a more frequent basis.

The category at the other extreme, i.e. “more than 47 times a year” sound generous in parental time but in calendar terms this works out to less than once a week. The total absence of any category for father visits in the 100 or 150 times per annum category creates a pregnant moment and one that we must hope occurred to Spruijt.

The numbers do the talking. A quarter of all fathers never get to see their children (T0, 27%) and a second 25% get to see them once a week (T0, 24%). A huge 50% of fathers don’t get to see their children on a more regular basis than once a fortnight.

The American, Valarie King (University of Pennsylvania, 1994), reported that in a random survey of more than 1,500 American children (a better sample size), she arrived at a ‘no contact’ percentage of 25%. Her conclusion was that a substantial number of the children of divorce lost contact with the non-resident parent – on average about 25% (NB the institutional/conventional resistance to putting the figure higher has eased since 1994).

Disappointment follows disappointment and personal hurt kicks in after a time. Those fathers awarded most contact, i.e. 24 – 47 times a year and more than 47 times a year, witness a halving of their contact time (from T0 to T3). Is this gatekeeping by mothers or frustration by fathers ? Spruijt falls silent on this crucial point.

Spruijt could have made a significant contribution by determining whether or not it was due to a sense of futility among fathers.

The 164 boys and girls in the Utrecht survey are reported as living with their single mother. The data does not measure how frequently a child sees its mother when the father is granted custody after divorce and thus an opportunity to compare and contrast the benefits per se, and of contact by mothers in particular, is missed.

Is this because custody is heavily biased towards mothers making comparison with fathers technically very difficult ?

Spruijt asks the same significant question posed by all academics who are perhaps too many places removed to realise what happens in real life. Why, he asks, have these children lost contact with their non-resident parent ?

He believes that the degree of contact seems to depend both on the family composition to which the child belongs to (arrival of step-parent and step-siblings) and on the marital status of the non-resident father.

He finds that 66% of children had regular contact with single non-resident fathers but when non-resident fathers re-married this fell to only 29%. This should not be surprising to Spruijt but it appears to be.

What Spruijt does not measure in his ‘family composition’ is the effects of the original social class and economic income bracket which may be very influential and which may be very diverse at either end of the spectrum. Omitted too is any cultural or ethnic minority dimension.

The need to earn a living and provide adequately for his second family yet still remit monies to his first family soaks up any time and energy he would have to himself to visit the children his first family. In this and others regards Spuijt appears to be amazingly unworldly.

Restricting ourselves to purely socio-economic factors, the north-south divide seen in custody awards in Britain underlines the strong cultural factors linking contact with frequency when compared with the socio-economic status of the original family composition (see “Twenty Wasted Years – Joint Custody is Not New or Untested”, Robert Whiston, 2008)

Fig 4. Marriages, United Kingdom, 1951 – 2006 (ONS)

We might speculate that as children progress into their teenage years and early twenties they might seek out their father to reassure themselves as to their identity, lineage and their heritage. But it is also possible that 25% – 30% of divorced fathers re-partner and have a second family that preoccupies their time.

Forty years ago it was planned that the Divorce Reform Act 1969 would see re-marriages equalling ‘first time’ marriages and then overtake it as divorce became ever-easier and cheaper. But as the trend lines show in Fig 4, this never happened; first time marriages nose dived and re-marriages have become stuck on a plateau since 1973.

We might also speculate that those children in Spruijt’s sample who do not see their fathers at all, or rarely, might have had fathers re-engaging with society and seeking the company of women, they might even have re-partnered and formed re-blended families.

This could explain why, at least for some numbers, i.e. in the less than 4 times a year and the 5 – 11 times a year categories, there is an actual increase, a doubling, in frequency of contact over the years (from T0 to T3) – but again Spruijt falls silent at this most influential of junctures.

Fig 5 Stability of the internalising and externalising problems. (Table 3)
T1 > T2 > T3
Stress and depression: .36 .47
Suicidal thoughts: .39 .43
Poor mental health: .19 .39
Delinquency: 36 .34
Risky habits: 53 .41
Unemployment: ns .19
Source:  Spruijt 200

Fig 5, on the right, replicates Spruijt’s Table 3 where he analyses the risks faced by children of divorce but who have some kind of contact with their father. At one point he concludes that children receive both no benefit from contact with their father but elsewhere that they do benefit from said contact.

This, it would appear, is not an uncommon situation. Spruijt refers to the work of Amato & Rezac (1994) who also found contradictory results in the USA concerning contact with the non-resident parent and Spruijt, to his credit, mentions other examples of contradictory findings regarding the benefit of contact.

However, Amato and Rezac (1994) examined the benefit of contact only in relation to where there were degrees of ‘conflict’. Not unnaturally they found that if there were relatively few incidents of conflicts between the parents, the contact was positive for the child.

This is so obvious one wonders why it has to be stated. The answer to that rhetorical question is that it is a ‘means to an end’; by understating the conflict element it brings the reader one step closer to the view that all contact is bad.

It is not revealed to the reader that Amato and Rezac analyzed only 33 studies regarding the question whether there is a positive relation between the well-being of children of divorce and access to the non-resident parent” (see the much more recent meta-analysis of Bauserman).

Once the scene is set, Sprujt is free to build on the erroneous impression by quoting, for example, King (1994 & 1999). According to Spruijt, King says in her 1994 study “clearly comes to the conclusion that there was not any significant correlation between visiting arrangements and the (numerous) characteristics of the children studied.”

However, were we to remove the small number of families ‘in conflict’ from the sample, would the ‘insignificant correlation’ relating to contact become significant ?

Valarie King’s dissertation of 1993 (Consequences of Outside Father Involvement for Children’s Well-Being), was written against a backdrop of increasingly common “rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing non-resident paternal parenting…..” [18]

The fact that in 1993 it was possible to write, “Recent public sentiment has increasingly called for the involvement of these fathers in their children’s lives under the assumption that such involvement will have positive benefits for children” would indicate that the public thought fathers were not getting a fair deal and ere not seeing enough of their children.

There is also the possibility to be weighed that the sample is skewed by the number of fathers who are out-of-wedlock fathers as well as being non resident fathers.

Perhaps Spruijt hopes no one will notice that in citing King’s 1999 study he actually reinforces the counter-case just outlined. King’s 1999 study concluded that ‘this particular correlation depended on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement’, thereby pointing directly not to compliance and co-operation and benefits to the child but capriciousness and unspoken conflict in the sample. Quote;

  • If mothers are happy with the visiting arrangements between child and father, the children will be all right. Similarly, Amato and Gilbreth (1999) did not find any correlation between the frequency of contact and the well-being of the children.
  • In 1999 King, together with Heard, specified this conclusion by stating that this particular correlation depended on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement.

Spruijt tries to downgrade the importance of a father in a child’s life by remarking that “the central idea runs.” The insinuation is that society is meant to have wrongly and idly arrived at believing that, “contact is always beneficial for the development of children. In a word: contact is essential.” [19]

12. Risky Behaviour

If we turn to more up-to-date studies, e.g. News-Medical in Child Health News (25 May 2004), we find that the ago old Gold Standard is till valid (“Children’s behaviour is linked to contact with real father” http://www.news-medical.net/?id=_87). See Appendix 6.

An obvious omission is the complication of sexual development in girls caused by father absence. Spruijt seemingly focuses on boys and their ‘risky habits’ but fatherlessness affects girls too, especially their mental health (see “Does early father absence place daughters at special risk for early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy ?). [20]

Results: “….. Among children experiencing low father involvement in infancy, behavioral, autonomic, and adrenocortical reactivity became risk factors for later mental health symptoms. The highest symptom severity scores were found for children with high autonomic reactivity that, as infants, had experienced low father involvement and mothers with symptoms of depression.”

In plainer English it also reports that;

“…father-absence continued to affect the rate of early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy exhibited by daughters. In addition rates were highest for early father-absence, in the middle for late father-absence, and lowest for father-present adolescent girls.”

We have to travel back through time, to 1999, to find another apparently credible report that gives some support to Spruijt. In 1999, the State of Washington hired Dr. Diane Lye to prepare a report to advise on how the Parenting Act 1988 (seen as a major revision of the state’s custody laws) was working in practice. Overall it was favourable to parenting plans, joint custody etc, however, Diane Lye also included ancillary matters such as violence, abuse and conflict and levels of child support. The resulting Lye Report has inevitably been seized upon by supporters and critics alike as it contains ammunition for both. [21]

For instance, Joan Kelly, an Executive Director of the Northern California Mediation Center, is cited almost on the last page (pp 4-26 & 4-27), as stating:

“Dual residence arrangements appeared to be more harmful when parents were in high discord than were sole residence arrangements. In contrast, adolescents in dual residence arrangements where there was cooperative communication between parents benefited more than did adolescents in sole residence arrangements.” (Pages 34-35 in “Current Research on Children’s Post-divorce Adjustment”).

Again, this is not really the point. Whatever the residential arrangements, e.g. sole mother custody, discord will have harmful effects. What Joan Kelly thinks is atypical and runs contrary to the Lye Report. Its conclusions, while generally favorable to a regime that more willingly embraces fathers, contain questioning citations (along the lines of Joan Kelly), from other experts and a sample of these can be found in Appendix 7.

The real flaw in the Washington State’s Parenting Act 1987, is that whatever the wording of reform legislation, retaining a maternal ‘veto’ effectively torpedoes any progress for fathers and children.

Spruijt, in a paper co-authored with DeGoede in 1997, wrote;

“Numerous studies have shown that youngsters growing up in families with a happy, harmonious parental marriage experience fewer problems and a higher well-being than those from divorced or martially distressed families.”

But he seems temperamentally trapped and unable to concede that a). youngsters growing up in slightly disharmonious married families are just as happy and b). that shared parenting offers children of divorce the best chance of recapturing something close to those former days of stability.

His analysis lacks a certain credibility simply because he refuses to acknowledge the implications of his own work. He cannot make the small step from his preferred model to that of joint custody / shared parenting / co-parenting that his research demands.

13. Social Policy and Suicides

Too many academic papers have a tendency to reduce raw data into confusing bi-variances, co-variances, statistical probabilities, degrees of standard deviation etc (e.g. Fig 3 & 5). It is a situation not retrieved by explanatory commentaries which fail to enlighten the reader.

Is it only vanity or a dread of looking unprofessional that stops assessments being understood by the common man ?

What, for instance, would an average man understand by the numbers ‘greater than 0.39’ associated with Spruijt’s “Suicidal thoughts” category ?

If he were to write that 5 years after the date of the divorce 45% of children aged 17 – 19, had, at one time or another in that period, the occasional (or recurring ?) suicidal thought, it would carry more meaning/weight.

Those not from a Sociology background tend not to obfuscate and approach the problem of suicide intent on making the numbers meaningful.

They see an increase in male suicides over the past 40 year among the young, i.e., aged 18 to 28 and say 29 to 40. At the same time there is an almost corresponding decrease in successful suicides among females in the same age groupings (females have always preferred attempted/para suicides).

Among the non-sociological fraternity it is the belief that social policy dictates to a large extent the suicide levels. To believe that fatherly involvement is a prime cause rather than social policy, is to confuse problem with symptom.

Fatherly involvement can have, in individual cases, an acute effect but it more often attenuates the impact of poorly thought out social policy. The British prison service has found that most young male who commit suicide upon their admission into prison are from fatherless families. Very few, if any, young men with an actively engaged father commit suicide in prison (see 13.Sample Size below).

The efficacy of any post-divorce custody model should take into account such phenomenon if the child’s best interests are to be served. This approach provides a far firmer and more pragmatic base on which to speculate about how suicidal thoughts overwhelm.

Somewhat ambiguously “being unemployed” is described by Spruijt as “obviously the least stable problem.” Does he mean by this that the least important factor is being unemployed or, that it will strike at random within the group, or that being unemployed is the most volatile factor and therefore the least stable ?

Being unemployed is surely the most influential underlying risk factor for young men affecting as it does their self-worth and helping to ensure “risky habits” of smoking, drugs, drinking, delinquency, and suicide. Being unemployed is very depressing – anyone who has been unemployed will know the toll that being continually ‘rejected’ takes from one’s self confidence.

Therefore, asking a young person in questionnaires is sometimes not a good idea for they are perhaps less well equipped than others to answer why they behave the way they do.

14. Sample Size

Spruijt’s paper is not very clear as to the sample size used for the various measurements.

The foundation of the Spruijt paper and its results shown in the tables above, appear to be based on a 1991 questionnaire and face-to-face interviews involving some 3,000 youngsters aged between 12 and 24 years old but the citation is for 164 participants.

It appears to be a subset. i.e. the youngest group aged 12 – 15, which were continuously ‘refreshed’ (re-examined ?), meaning that by 1994 the oldest were 27 (T2) and aged 30 in 1997 (T3).

In 1997 the number of young people aged between 12 to 30 years old who participated in the investigation totalled 1,781. Spruijt then adds;

“For the benefit of the analyses in this article” [he selected a group] “of children of divorced parents who had participated three times”, [and who are] “living with their mothers or had lived with them before leaving home.”

It is this selection that causes the reviewer some unease. Was it a selection to mimic a random sample or was it a selection that contained inherent biases ? Was it impossible to find a sample, albeit smaller in size, of children from father only households to compare and contrast the validity of his subsequent findings ?

Whatever the answer to these key questions we are told that the group consisted of 65 boys and 99 girls (giving a sample size of 164, or n=164).

The children are said to come from 131 households where the parent was divorced but over a three year period a further 33 divorced households are added which would, a first sight, indicate an instability in the sample size.

Spruijt’s methodology has another unsettling aspect as he records that the average age was 17.9 years (12 – 24 years). No median age is given. Characteristics are so diverse in this age range (12 – 24 years), and the stages of ‘self’ so numerous that aggregating them would seem to defeat reaching any clear cut conclusion. It would have been far better if he could have arranged for a 3 or 4 year interval, a discrete age range of, say,. 12 – 15, 15 – 18 etc, and for ‘snapshots’ to have been taken then.

Finessing the existing data and hypothesising from a sample of 164 is an academic exercise in comparison with the very pragmatic matter of judging cohorts in their thousands and/or of outcomes for an equally large number, or for a generation.

When the majority of young men (under 21) who commit suicide in jail within the first 3 weeks are found to come from fatherless families then that is something that is concrete and can be discussed. (ref. Prison Service Perrie Lectures, Prison Officer Training College, Rugby, UK, June 2001).

Knowing that fact enables relevant studies to be made of the degrees and intensity of paternal and maternal bonding (Spruijt’s reference to Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979), and whether one or both were ‘authoritative parents.’

Looking for answers in a sample of 164 might be useful, but compared with other options is surely looking down the wrong end of a telescope.

In an earlier 2001 paper co-authored with De Goede, Spruijt states that;

“Father bonding is an important protective factor against the negative effects of a divorce, but only if this father bond was established long before the divorce.”

Yet in the book “The role of the father in child development” by Michael E. Lamb, this conclusion about a long established bond is not altogether validated. Nonetheless, Spruijt cites Lamb as a source for part of his argument for the low relevance of fathers and contact in the paper currently here under review.

A long established bond would imply ‘quantity’ of time invested in father-child relationships rather than quality – or is this a nefarious and unrelated connection ?

Measuring the father bond in the Caribbean cultures (Lamb, page 78) shows a low amount of time invested by fathers in child relationships, yet Spruijt does not speak of quality or quantity, nor does he reveal the ethnic or cultural mix of his Utrecht sample (something that Lamb’s 500 page book does explore). [22]

15. Bonding

Bearing in mind the rich maritime trading traditions of both Holland and Britain, Spruijt falls silent again on the compensatory capacity of mothers when fathers are away at sea for months at a time. What quantity of time or intensity of bonding would Spruijt put on such family relationships ? Why one wonders is all the emphasis for bonding placed on fathers all the time when mothers have a pivotal role in making paternal bonding happen and making it count.

Is any consideration given to the results if mothers employ ‘spoiling tactics’ both before divorce, as the adult relationship dwindles and during divorce when battle is joined ?

One can gauge how much of a deterrent this can be when Spruijt cites King & Heard (1999), who found that if the mother was happy with the visiting arrangements between the child and the father, the children will be all right (cited above).

In short, any conclusion about particular correlations Spruijt might make depends wholly on the mother’s satisfaction with the arrangement (again, ego and the ability to veto coming to the fore).

Conversely, but still underlining the point, Amato & Gilbreth (1999) did not find any correlation between the frequency of contact and the well-being of the children. This leads one to suspect a positive outcomes for contact in governed more by mothers than fathers.

How influential a ‘fortress mother’ can be and how she can rule the lives of others can be measured by inquiring into the lives of other women, namely ‘second wives’. Their lives are, or can be, made utterly miserable by the antics of the parent-with-care, i.e. the mother in the first family. Even the standard of living a second wife can expect is governed by and is always at the mercy of the whims of the parent-with-care.

The common assumption Spruijt tries to undermine in his 2002 paper is one dating from the 1970s which believes children thrive best when contact with both parents is possible. In the following decades, particularly in the 1990s, serious efforts were mounted to overturn this view principally because of the financial gains involved and the political advantage it would benefit those proposing it.

In “Father-child relations Mother-child relations, and Offspring Psychological Wellbeing in Early Adulthood” (1994), P. Amato points out the closer children are to their father, regardless of the quality of the mother-child relationship, the happier, more satisfied, and less distressed they are.

This must surely put in doubt the assumption in many circles that making the mother happy is key and takes primacy over the child’s happiness.

16. The Well-Being of Children

Contrary to Spruijt’s interpretation of the available literature there is more than ample evidence to indicate that the benefit of fatherly contact is not a 50/50 question i.e. that for every gain there is a loss, far from it.

Heide Ottosen makes a telling point when in “Contact and the well-being of children”, (2004, supra, p. 28) she states that this type of research (father-contact-child) is more prominent in countries such as the US where family policy discussions have a more moralistic character than in Scandinavia” (and presumably Spruijt has access to every US university archive).

Another dimension is that America is much more openly religious than Europe, which is far more secular in many of its institutions. Funding for a secular view of divorce and custody will probably more found more easily and viewed as more objective than one stemming from a religious base. Yet ‘secularism’ can be as much a religion, and as dogmatic, as Christianity or Islam.

Stephen Gilmore (2006), and J. Dunn (2004) fail to share Spruijt’s opinion. Gilmore has assessed legal decision-making with a view to the evidence regarding contact and shared residence, and J. Dunn (2004) has researched children’s perspectives about their non- resident father. They believe that the volume and frequency of contact is significant and that the quality of contact is also significant.

Mothers who are not mature and instead allow their bitterness to colour their attitudes can adversely affect both the quantity and the quality of contact. Thinking they are hurting their former partner they are not responsible enough to realise they damage only the children.

It isn’t just that Lamb’s handbook (about which Spruijt appears to place great store) asserts; “… the role of the father in the development of children … clearly shows that in two-parent families both the mother and the father play an important role in the healthy development of their children”, it is that the book shows how pivotal all fathers are for all children and what a disaster has resulted from their marginalisation.

For instance on page 121 the chapter begins:

“Among social sciences and public policy makers in Europe there is increasing awareness of the complex and contradictory nature of contemporary fatherhood.

Page 196 echoes these sympathetic themes and on page 307 the section begins:

“Fathers are major but often unrecognised members of the family who play a central role in children’s socialisation.

Other contributions to Lamb’s manual are worth listing briefly:

  • In a study of men in Guyana it was found that 61% of fathers played with their children, 40% took them for walks and outings etc. 62% talked to children about things important to them, and 42% helped with homework ‘often’ or ‘very often.’ (Lamb, pp 78-79).
  • Unexpectedly, at least from a European perspective, fathers from low income families actually spent more time with their children’s activities than men from higher income brackets (Brown et al 1994 and 1997).
  • In addition it was found when the child was still an infant, approx. 72% of fathers reported changing nappies, 64% got up in the middle of the night, and 70% prepared baby food. The levels of paternal involvement are remarkable and would not be out of place in American or European homes.

According to Lamb’s book, debate in Europe is polarised around two camps; one where men are in crisis and unable to provide the cash through work necessary to support a family (Hobson 2002), and in the alternative, where men are no longer the austere stereotypical patriarchs of old but have instead evolved into caring, nurturing beings (Bjornberg, 1992).

This is a severe if not overly simplistic view of what is a complex and fluid situation. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two and is a mixture of the two.

However, those extreme views are only supposition, for Lamb makes it crystal clear (on p 121) that in Europe the study of fathers has been ignored and even the host of official EU statistics measure women and not men (a criticism that can be justifiably leveled at Britain’s ONS).

Fatherhood, Lamb believes, is in transition all across Europe, and the EU has no idea of the changes underway in the social landscape –instead it is naval gazing at trade negotiations and multi-ethnic diversity.

Compared with the level of fatherly involvement seen among Caribbean fathers, the European social backdrop is a lunar landscape and is inadequate. What agencies are at work that actively separate children from their fathers ?

Those proposing sole mother custody and by implication limiting father contact to only a few hours per week or per fortnight, can no longer deny that it is children who will suffer most. How can Saturday afternoons with Dad make up this sort of deficit ?

The conclusion Spruijt reaches is that children would do better “if parents learned to communicate better with one another.”

This is where he and pro-fathers rights groups begin to share common ground because it is so obvious (though one suspects he sees fathers as the culprits for any lack of communication).

What, one must ask, is more guaranteed to antagonise the situation and more designed to create obstacles to the desired state of better communications than sole mother custody, vesting as it does the veto power of one parent over the other ?

This is blatant anathema to better relationships that it is surprising those opposing greater parental involvement have not yet identified it.

Pro-fathers rights groups would readily agree that it would be better if parents were able to communicate with one another but this simplistic view overlooks the tragedy concealed within. The parent with whom the child resides after the divorce and who frustrates the other parent’s contact (i.e., the father) usually has not unpacked their emotional baggage. This often consisting of raw, unprocessed emotions linked to the separation and which can lead to prolonged vindictiveness.

Despite the very emphatic nature of a legal separation – and its hard, factual reality – subconsciously it is possible that in the mind of one parent there has been no relational ‘Goodbye’ to the former marital estate.

17. Parental Alienation (PAS)

Spruijt and pro-fathers rights groups are agreed on the existence of parental alienation (sometimes referred to as PAS) and the damaging effect it can have on the child.

Disharmony and alienation can be deliberately orchestrated to benefit one of the parents. To the observer this can be seen as hostile acts or even belligerence by one or both parents. At its most efficient parental alienation is wholly interchangeability with hostility and violence – and because PAS is child-based, children are drawn into its creation and become its actors.

In a paper published in 2008 by E. Kaplan, of the Faculty of Social Sciences (University of Utrecht), states how boys and girls are sucked in and suffer. [23]

“As conflicts between parents leads to loyalty problems with the child, with more girls suffer from conflicts for the separation as opposed to boys.”

Kaplin then measures the phenomenon and finds that a gender difference exists:

• 72% of fathers believe PAS is a problem.

• But only 36% of mothers believe PAS is a problem.

• According to the father’s PAS is a severe problem in 21% of cases.

• But according mothers PAS is only a severe problem in 10% of cases.

These 2008 findings of higher percentages of PAS contradicted earlier findings regarding PAS undertaken by Ed Spruijt and his colleagues in 2005. He had concluded that although PAS did occur in the Netherlands, it was hardly ever found to be the severe form.

In Britain, Sturge and Glaser were dismissive of PAS as it was not a DSM recognised syndrome – an arcane point – but conceded that the processes of alienation were real in some cases. By contrast,

‘Battered Woman Syndrome’ is equally not recognised by the DSM as a syndrome but is nonetheless referred to as such in legal circles.

The problem with interchangeability is the slide into aggregation and the resulting obfuscation. We see this everyday in statistics that lump together cohabiting couples with married couples into one category.

Spruijt is not alone in confusing high conflict families with families where PAS can be found. Nor is he alone in wrongly for appearing to group conflict and PAS with actual physical violence (see Appendix 8).

In respect to divorces, before 1998 the reported conflict level was 8.4 and had only increased to 11.0 -13.2 after 1998 (on a 0 – 20 scale). Considering the increased marginalisation of fathers and the amount of anti-father legislation this is not a significant increase. It has to be pigeon holed as ‘not significant’ because it is not specific to one type of action or category (i.e. it could be an amalgam of causes).

Additionally, the fact that the legal construction of ‘joint parental authority’ may in itself bring about higher conflict levels was a conclusion of a Danish Commission which reported on this topic in 2006 (‘joint parental authority’ and its equivalent has spread to nearly all the EU nations by 2009).

The Danish Commission found that in Sweden “the conflict levels did not decrease with the passing of time” which would seem to point to a systems-induced failure rather than a human one. [24]

Where the model of divorce and/or custody has changed, e.g. some states in America, levels of conflict have also altered.

18. Kinderbescherming

Unlike the United Nations, the Kinderbescherming is not dependent on the Armed Forces of its member nations and can exercise options to give both parties a level playing field – but chooses not to.

It does not rely on the individual clients to sort out problems but relies on individuals inside the Kinderbescherming to provide solutions and push things forward. Society has to hope that individuals inside the Kinderbescherming are pushing in the right direction but who is there to check and correct the Kinderbescherming ?

The Kinderbescherming can be pro-active if it chooses to be – it may not have wholly unlimited options but its powers are not curtailed as they are for the United Nations.

Spruijt also believes that ‘counseling, parenting plans and mandatory mediation for divorcing parents could be helpful to diminish the continuous conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce’ and who could not agree with that ?

Pro-fathers rights groups see it as a positive step.

The only drawback is that undertaking such counseling, parenting plans and mediation when a veto is held by one party, negates any possibility of meaningful and equitable negotiation leading to mutually beneficial outcomes (comparable to the Czechoslovakia being forced to surrender the Sudetenland and its border defences in 1938 to Germany prior to annexation).

If Spruijt truly wants to diminish the conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce then changes are needed to the custody model now in operation.

Principally there must be an end to the ‘casino’ approach to custody where the punter (the father) is tempted by the prospect of justice (winning) but where the house (the court) ensures it always wins.

Take the gambling dimension out of custody awards; eliminate the prospect of the court awarding 95% of custody cases to sole mothers and both children and fathers will benefit.

The present level of conflict between fathers and mothers after divorce will measurably subside if those simple stapes are taken.

In other areas Spruijt holds views that are compatible with fathers groups; he recognises the dangers of parental alienation (PAS, Gardner, 1998) as a potential threat for the healthy development of children.

Spruijt’s solution for this and “overt and continuous quarrels between ex-spouses”, is for the parent, i.e. implicitly the father, to learn to control their conflicts.

This Spruijt believes will provide a framework upon which contact (which he says is essential) would be conditional and granted only after compliance, i.e. the veto again.

Spruijt is caught in a two-way bind of is own making. Either it is good for children to see their father, or it is not.

Either the child’s best interest (CBI) comes first, or it does not; in which case (i.e. where it does not) then the pretence is laid bare – it is the mother’s best interest that comes first.

It is mothers who win out and the CBI mantra is merely codified shorthand for mother’s best interest. (see also Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Pres. of the Family Division, ‘The Effects and the Implications for Contact’, Nov 2001, Regents Park lecture, prioritising mother custody).

Thus, the champion of women – the radical-feminists – reduces all women to an infantile status last seen in the 19th century. Women cannot function in society without being given custody of any children. The discomfiture and odium of being a divorced women and not having been granted custody of any resulting children is too embarrassing to bear.

Even where they are clearly unfit to be mothers they are given custody – an assertion made fact by analysis of the child abuse and neglect figures.

Women under Spruijt’s law are adults in name only; they are incapable of making binding contracts or being held responsible for decisions that do not completely suit or favour them. Has he not considered the child abuse and neglect figures and is not his first duty to children rather than parents ?

If, as is implied, contact is semi-dependent on the quality of contact and the investment fathers are prepared to make should we not also measure the quality of mothers and their mothering abilities ?

If the question of the role of mothers is not up for discussion why should we discuss whether fathers should be assessed as to suitability ?

Why are fathers always considered the variable factor and not the mother ?

Instead of looking at the high or low frequency of fatherly contact why are we not measuring the suitability of women in the sample; the suitability of women who divorce and those that prefer to be unmarried mothers ?

Is there something inherently wrong in their psychological make-up that marks them out to be poor wives and inadequate mothers ?

To borrow an adage from the late Prof. Jacob Bronowski, “Only by asking the impertinent question can we arrive at the pertinent answer”.

END

“Are men really necessary ? Good question”

The Times (UK), Nov 25th 2007
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marrin/article2937002.ece

(An article prompted by government moves to make IVF available to women without the need for a husband or for the child to have a father)

Quote:

.. For nearly 30 years we have seen a subtle but increasing onslaught against masculinity. From the female separatism of the 1970s, when I went to feminist meetings that were open to “women and girl children only”, to the feminisation of the classroom and exams and the widespread use of the word testosterone as a term of blame and abuse, men and boys have come to understand that they are increasingly seen as hairy, smelly, lazy, disruptive, violent and generally rather a bad thing.

Women regularly blame their difficulties on men and expect them to make reparation. They increasingly tolerate men only if they take on domestic chores and childcare. Meanwhile, women are beginning to feel truly independent of men, at least financially. It is hardly surprising that men increasingly feel dispensable.”

“ …. As Camille Paglia once said, if civilisation had been left to women, we’d still be living in grass huts.”

“ ….. This is a moment for serious revaluation of men. The women at Cranford [a novel] managed, despite the lack of men, and so did my mother, who was widowed with four tiny children, and others like her. But it is at great cost and a great loss – and to the children, too. What we need is the rehabilitation of real masculinity, because that is something most of us do need and like.”

NB. Persistent marginalisation of men may lead them to be less inclined to fund, via their taxes, those services most valued and used mainly by women, e.g. medical treatment, pensions, housing, child subsidies.

Frederick Engels

In the 1970s, the feminist movement which had encouraged change was co-opted by radicals who saw women as the prototypical oppressed class and marriage and “compulsory heterosexuality” as the mechanisms of oppression.

This stream of thought drew on Frederick Engels’ analysis of the origins of the family. In 1884 Engels had written:

“The first-class antagonism in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between men and women in monogamous marriage, and the first-class oppression with that of the female sex by the male”.

(Ref. Frederick Engels, ‘The Origin of the Family, Property and the State’. International Publishers: 1972, pp. 65-66. (http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/GENDFEM.HTM).

200,000 children at risk of abuse in their own homes’

200,000 children are at risk of violence or abuse in their own home,

According to an official report that demands urgent improvements in child protection starting “at the heart of government”.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent, Daily Telegraph, 13th Mar 2009
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/baby-p/4980126/Baby-P-report-200000-children-at-risk-of-abuse-in-their-own-homes.html

Instead of seeking any fundamental change in the rules and systems for social services and child protection, Lord Laming said that everyone involved in the field needs to do their jobs better.

“After reviewing child protection standards in the wake of the death of Baby P in Haringey, Lord Laming said ministers, council chiefs, social work managers, NHS staff and police officers all needed to do more to safeguard vulnerable children.

His report revealed figures suggesting that of the 11 million children in England, 200,000 are living in homes where there is “known high risk case of domestic abuse or violence.”

“As many as 350,000 children have parents who have serious drug habits and 1.3 million live with parents who drink heavily, Lord Laming’s report says.”

“Divorce and separation: The outcomes for children”

By Bryan Rodgers and Jan Pryor, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, June 1998

“a comprehensive review of over 200 current research reports by”

http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/divorce-and-separation-outcomes-children

Right: Dr. Jan Pryor has been the inaugural Director of the Centre for the last seven years. Recently (May 2009) she handed over the reigns to Associate Professor Paul Jose as Acting Director. Jan’s new role as Chief Families Commissioner has impacted on her time and she now works part time for the Centre as a Senior Researcher.

Left: Professor Bryan Rodgers BA (hons), MA (Oxford), MSc (London), PhD (Bristol) Professor of Family Health & Wellbeing, The Australian National University, Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute, Primary Areas: Psychology and psychiatry, social issues & public policy. Expertise: Depression, alcohol use, family health & wellbeing, divorce, childhood adversity and mental health, gambling.

E-mail: Bryan.Rodgers@anu.edu.au, Tel: +61 2 6125 0399
Room 3231, Coombs Building

More reports of WA mothers mistreating children

By Nick Taylor, PerthNow, (Western Australia), 18 July 2009
http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,27574,25802810-2761,00.html

The number of WA mothers reported for abusing their children has leapt in the past two years.

Figures from the Department for Child Protection, obtained by The Sunday Times, show the number of mothers believed responsible for “substantiated maltreatment” has risen from 312 to 427. In the same period – 2005-06 to 2007-08 – the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155.

A breakdown of all family-based child abuse shows and increase from 960 to 1505 last year.

Michael Woods, of the University of Western Sydney, said the data “debunked a common misconception about fathers and violence”.

Dr Woods, who is also a co-director of the university-based Men’s Information and Resource Centre said: “The figures undermine the myth that fathers are the major risk for their children’s wellbeing.

“The data is not surprising. It is in line with the international findings regarding perpetrators of child abuse.”

He said previous practices of lumping together de facto, live-in boyfriends and overnight male guests with fathers as male carers had “skewed beliefs” about who abused children.

Angela Hartwig, executive officer of the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA, said the increases were a concern, but child abuse, neglect and domestic and family violence could be reported in several ways.

“Because the woman is so often the primary care-giver she is held as being responsible for the neglect,” she said.

“This could also explain why there is such a high number of neglect cases against women, as the data only shows the first person believed responsible.

“The statistics do not show the strong correlation that where there is child abuse there is often domestic and family violence and the women may be the victim of the abuse.

“If she is a victim of domestic and family violence, a woman has very little power to change the situation.

“It is difficult for a woman to provide for children when living with an abusive partner who has total control of all decisions made, which includes controlling the finances.”

Children’s behaviour is linked to contact with real father

Posted By: News-Medical in Child Health News, Tuesday, 25-May-2004
http://www.news-medical.net/?id=_87

The importance of a father figure in children’s lives has been demonstrated by a new study of families with separated parents in Bristol.

After looking at couples who had split up, researchers found there was a direct relationship between their children’s behavioural problems and the amount of contact they had with their natural father, and the quality of the relationship between father and child.

The effect was more pronounced in single parent families, particularly teenaged mothers. In these families the children were particularly vulnerable if they had no contact with their real father.

The findings, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry were based on data collected by the Children of the 90s study based at the University of Bristol.

Professor Judy Dunn from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London, studied 162 children whose parents had separated, over two years. Of those children, 18% had no contact with their father, and 16% had contact less than once a month. There tended to be less contact if the mothers had been relatively young when pregnant.

Researchers interviewed all 162 children (initially at an average age of eight and a half) about their relationship with their mothers, fathers and stepfathers. The mothers were asked to report on children’s behaviour, on whether they were aggressive or delinquent (externalising behaviour) or withdrawn, anxious, or depressed (internalising).

There were fewer externalising problems according to the child’s relationship with both mother or non-resident father, and according to the extent of child-father contact and the quality of this relationship.

Internalising problems were associated with the quality of the relationship with the mother, and to infrequent or no contact with the father.

The report notes: “Earlier studies have reported some inconsistent findings on the significance of contact.

“Our findings were unequivocal: more frequent and more regular contact (which included communication by telephone) was associated with closer more intense relationships with non-resident fathers and fewer adjustment problems in children.”

Professor Dunn notes that the amount of contact between a child and a father was related to the relationship between the parents.

She says: “This underlines the importance of parents developing a good working relationship over children’s issues and of keeping any problems in their own relationships separate from their parenting.”

Ref:-

Children’s perspectives on their relationships with their non-resident fathers: influences, outcomes and implications. Judy Dunn, Helen Cheng, Thomas G. O’Connor, and Laura Bridges. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45:3 (2004), pp 553-566.

Review of the 1999 Parenting Act Study

Short review by Diane N. Lye, Ph.D. and Mary Wechsler

http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

and

http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

More creativity and individualizing of parenting plans should be encouraged. The study concluded that too many Washington parents have “cookie cutter” parenting plans that are primarily every-other-weekend residential schedules, which does not meet the needs of all families. Dr. Lye suggested encouraging individualizing parenting plans by disseminating information about diverse residential schedules to attorneys, judges, court commissioners, guardians ad litem, court facilitators, and other professionals involved in the formulation of parenting plans.

Parenting Act Study (Washington State)

Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission

http://www.courts.wa.gov/search/index.cfm?fa=search.start_search

and

http://www.courts.wa.gov/committee/pdf/parentingplanstudy.pdf

p 4-27

“Recent studies suggest that the relationship between child adjustment and conflict is neither universal, simple, nor particularly straightforward It appears that, rather than discord per se, it is the manner in which parental conflict is expressed that may affect the children’s adjustment. High interparental discord has been found to be related to the child’s feeling caught in the middle, and this experience of feeling caught was related to adjustment. Adolescents in dual (shared) residence arrangements did not feel more caught than did adolescents in mother or father custody type arrangements. Nor was amount of visiting related to feeling caught. There was a significant effect, however, of the interaction between type of residence and the parental relationship. Dual residence arrangements appeared to be more harmful when parents were in high discord than were sole residence arrangements. In contrast, adolescents in dual residence arrangements where there was cooperative communication between parents benefited more than did adolescents in sole residence arrangements.”

(Pages 34-35 in “Current Research on Children’s Post-divorce Adjustment”)

http://www.courts.wa.gov/committee/pdf/parentingplanstudy.pdf

Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur

“Joint custody arrangements, while not common, are found in many communities, particularly in more privileged socioeconomic groups. Whether or not high levels of contact with both biological parents can reduce or eliminate the negative consequences associated with divorce is an open question. To date, researchers have found very little evidence that it does.” (Pages 6-7 in Growing Up With a Single Parent).

“We have demonstrated that children raised apart from one of their parents are less successful in adulthood than children raised by both their parents. For children living with a single parent and no stepparent, income is the single most important factor in accounting for their lower well-being as compared with children living with both parents. It accounts for as much as half their disadvantage.”
(Page 134 in Growing up With a Single Parent).

Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin

“Custody arrangements may matter far less for the well-being of children than had been thought. The rationale for joint custody is so plausible and attractive that one is tempted to disregard the disappointing evidence and support it anyway. But based on what is known now, we think custody and visitation matter less for children than how much conflict there is between the parents and how effectively the parent the child lives with functions. It is likely that a child who alternates between the homes of a distraught mother and an angry father will be more troubled than a child who lives with a mother who is coping well and who once a fortnight sees a father who has disengaged from his family. Even the frequency of visits with a father seem to matter less than the climate in which they take place. Joint physical custody should be encouraged only in cases where both parents voluntarily agree to it imposing joint physical custody would invite continuing conflict without any clear benefits. In weighing alternative public policies concerning divorce, the thin empirical evidence of the benefits of joint custody and frequent visits with fathers must be acknowledged.”

(Pages 75-76 in Divided Families).

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in the Netherlands

A.P. Spruijt, B. Eikelenboom, J. Harmeling, R. & H. Kormos
The American Journal of Family Therapy, 33, 303-319.

[Extract]

http://66.102.9.132/search?q=cache:-PVS7MgmXPMJ:igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/fss/2006-0801-202038/spruijt_Parentalalienationsyndrome.doc+American+Journal+of+Family+Therapy,+A.P.+Spruijt,+B.+Eikelenboom&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

In the Netherlands, about 20% of children do not have any contact with their non-resident parent after parental divorce. There are often many reasons underlying the broken contact, but one might well be the process of parental alienation, when the child denigrates and excludes the non-resident parent. This article presents the results of two studies conducted amongst divorce experts and divorced, non-resident parents. A total of 138 respondents co-operated in our studies. Of the respondents, 58% thought PAS either does not, or hardly, occur in the Netherlands, and 42% thought it does.

Findings:

Gardner distinguished three levels of PAS, namely mild, moderate and severe and identified the eight major symptoms. These were:

1. There is an ongoing campaign of denigration against the other parent (mostly the father).

2. The arguments for the slander given by the children are weak, frivolous and/or absurd.

3. The children lack ambivalent feelings in that they declare the non-resident parent to be 100% bad and the resident parent 100% good.

4. The children claim the decision to exclude the non-resident parent as their own and the resident parent supports this ‘independent’ attitude emphatically.

5. The kids support their resident parent automatically. This could result in the child rejecting convincing evidence to the contrary.

6. The children do not feel guilty about cruel behaviour towards the non-resident parent.

7. The children, while excluding the non-resident parent, seem to recite borrowed scenarios that are quite unusual for their age.

8. The hostility expands to the family of the non-resident parent.

Spruijt reports that “We were able to distinguish four separate aspects: two of them concerning alienation due to the resident parent and two concerning alienation due to the child. Our results underpin the importance of mediation, since it seemed that PAS occurred significantly more often when decisions with relation to the children were not taken together by the parents but were determined in court. We consider that compulsory mediation and better communication during divorce would prevent many cases of PAS.”

Additional sources and references:

“The Effects of Divorce on Children : A Selected Literature Review (Canada)” http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_2-dt98_2/toc-tdm.html

“Factors Affecting Children’s Post Divorce Adjustment (Conflict)” http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_2-dt98_2/p3_4.html

Quote; “ . . . Johnston et al. (1985) conducted an in-depth examination of the nature of parental disputes with 39 families who were disputing custody or access arrangements. It should be noted that this sample is biased in that their rate of verbal and physical aggression is considerably higher than that of a normal divorcing sample. However, it provides us with an indication of the devastating effects conflict can have on children.”

Annex

Ideological background

1970s Feminism Brings Only Exulted Equality For Some

‘It’s been a long journey – and we’re not there yet’

By Carole Cadwalladr, The Guardian Dec 2008
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/dec/07/women-equality-rights-feminism-sexism-women-s-liberation-conference

There’s something satisfying about convening a gathering of 1970s feminists in what still feels like the heart of the British establishment – the Reform Club on Pall Mall, an august neo-classical structure that doesn’t look like it’s changed much since Gladstone’s time.

It represents pretty much everything that Fay Weldon, Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Susie Orbach once struggled against and to a degree succeeded in changing – the Reform Club was the first London gentlemen’s club to admit women on equal terms, in 1981. They, each in their own way, were pioneers in what was then called the Women’s Liberation Movement when the concepts of equal rights for men and women, equal pay, and equality of opportunity were still just that: concepts.

Lynne Sega: “By the end of the Sixties, I had read de Beauvoir and Doris Lessing but there

were no role models apart from them, and it was hard to know quite what to be. So that’s what brought me to women’s liberation: I was a single mother with a child and it simply rescued me. It gave me a grounding to rethink everything. So much of what we did was around how to make motherhood livable, beginning with the situation of childbirth, which was an utter nightmare. I gave birth all alone in hospital – no one was allowed in there with you – and all you could hear were screams.”

Biographical note:

Lynne Segal is Professor of psychology and gender studies at Birkbeck. Segal co-authored (with Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright) the 1979 pamphlet ‘Beyond the Fragments’, which argued for closer links between feminism and left-wing politics. Rowbotham published a groundbreaking pamphlet ‘Women’s Liberation and the New Politics’ in 1969 and was one of the forces behind the first National Women’s Liberation Conference in 1970, which set out a political agenda on issues such as equal pay, education and free contraception. In 1987 Lynne Segal wrote ‘Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism.’

Footnotes


[1] Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” 2002, http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

[2] “Joint birth registration: promoting parental responsibility” Department for Works and Pensions; 26 June 2007. See also “Single mothers to be forced to name fathers on birth certificates”, 16th Mar 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/5001637/Single-mothers-to-be-forced-to-name-fathers-on-birth-certificates.html and http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7160/7160.pdf

[4] Would You take One Home with You ?”, Sue Slipman http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/cw33.pdf

[5] Dossier on science and paternity; A critical dossier on how father- and fatherhoodissues related to divorce are presently dealt with by Dutch social science and scientists like A.P. Spruijt‘; by Joep Zander; accessed on 9th February 2010; Google translated version to English: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=nl&sl=nl&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fhome.tiscali.nl%2F~csnel%2Fjz%2Fwetens.html; Original Dutch text version: http://home.tiscali.nl/~csnel/jz/wetens.html

[6] Child contact with non-resident parents”, by Joan Hunt & Ceridwen Roberts, Shared parenting but cite “high conflict families.”

[7] Utrecht Law Review, “Parental relocation, Free movement rights and joint parenting” Christina G. Jeppesen de Boer, http://www.utrechtlawreview.org/publish/articles/000069/article.pdf

[8] Fathers must help keep children from abuse”, Daily Telegraph, 12th Mar 2009, “Fathers have a vital role to play in keeping children save from abuse, according to Lord Laming’s report in the wake of the death of Baby P. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/baby-p/4980022/Baby-P-report-Fathers-must-help-keep-children-from-abuse.html

[9] Experiments in Living: the Fatherless Family” (Sept 2002).

[10] Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Tuesday 14 December 2004, Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219), http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmconst/116/4121403.htm. This committee also heard testimony from Women’s Aid and NSPCC about their view of violence & child abuse.

[11] Divorce and separation: The outcomes for children”, June 1998 (a comprehensive review of over 200 current research reports by Bryan Rodgers and Jan Pryor) http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/divorce-and-separation-outcomes-children

[12] This has to be seen against the backdrop of her own orientation and the failure of her work to aid the children of her lifelong friend Dorothy Burlingham (all of whom died prematurely). Neither Freud nor Burlingham had any qualifications.

[14] See “Sword and Wig” by Lord Justice Dunn.

[15] Psychologist Dr. Richard A. Warshak, Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas, has been studying children for over twenty years. He is one of North America’s foremost authorities on the effects of divorce on children. In “The Custody Revolution, The Father Factor” and the “Motherhood Mystique”, he introduces his book by putting the issue squarely: “…. stereotypes are poor substitutes for factual information. In the last two decades, social scientists have examined different custody arrangements and their effects on children’s development. If this information is ignored, and we continue to allow myth and sentiment to rule custody decisions, we short-change our children and we short-change ourselves.”

[16] Non-Resident Fathers in Britain”, Jonathan Bradshaw, Carol Stimson, Julie Williams and Christine Skinner Interim Report March 1997 http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/8/)

[17] More reports of WA mothers mistreating children”, By Nick Taylor, PerthNow, 18 July 2009, qv. The number of West Australian mothers reported for abusing their children has leapt in the past two years. ttp://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,27574,25802810-2761,00.html

[18] University of Pennsylvania, 1993, ID Number: 1197 http://www.chrr.ohio-state.edu/nls-bib/qauthor.php3?xxx=KING,+VALARIE

[19] Spruijt cites Furstenberg and Cherlin (1991)

[20] Child Development 74(3): 801-821. by Ellis, B., Bates, J., Dodge, K., Fergusson, D. Horwood, L. Pettit, G. & Woodward, L. (2003). http://journals.lww.com/jaacap/Abstract/2006/12000/Early_Father_Involvement_Moderates_Biobehavioral.14.aspx

[21] The review was undertaken by Diane Lye, Ph.D., and Mary Wechsler. http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2000/jul-00-review.htm

[23] “Ouderverstoting in Nederland – Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) en loyaliteitsproblemen bij recente scheidingsgezinnen”, July 31, 2008 http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&langpair=nl%7Cen&u=http://oudervervreemding.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/00003/.

[24] Commission Report No. 1475/2006 and Chapter II, Section II.3.2.2.

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