Monday, July 4, 2011

Clearing up my saved articles F&F edition

A collection of interesting studies found on F&F:

We start with "a paper presented by Dr. William Fabricius of Arizona State University entitled “The Bad News about Divorce and Children Is Worse than We Thought, but the Good News Is Better than We Thought.”:

His own research into a cohort of 1,030 high school students indicates that

the effect of divorce on the father-child relationship depends heavily on the amount of parenting time the child has with the father. At equal parenting time, the quality of the relationship was at its highest; at the lowest levels of parenting time with father (0% to 15%) the quality of the relationship was at its worst.

That is, the more time a child has with his/her father post divorce up to 50%, the better the relationship between the two. More time beyond 50% doesn’t seem to improve matters. The implications of that for public policy should be obvious.

The bad news is that a large percentage – almost 40% — of the students had these minimal levels of parenting time with their fathers when they were growing up, and had damaged relationships with their fathers as young adults.

So, the failure of courts to grant fathers greater custody and to enforce visitation has a direct and negative effect on children both during childhood and after.

[...]When we consider that almost 40% of the students had had minimal parenting time with their fathers, and on average as young adults had damaged relationships with their fathers, and when we link that with the lifetime health outcomes of young adults who had reported similarly distant relationships with their parents, we can see that the bad news looks worse than we thought it was.

Another study is cited about the link between absent fathers and longevity:

What is now called the Longevity Project by current researchers, began in 1921. It continued through the death of its founder, Lewis Terman, and the involvement of a couple of generations of follow-up researchers. It’s still going on. The purpose is to find what factors contribute to longevity and which ones do the opposite. [...] The early death of a parent had no measurable effect on children’s life spans or mortality risk, but the long-term health effects of broken families were often devastating. Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families.

There was an interesting follow up for the above study, we talk about equal parenting now:

There is now a strong consensus among the general public that equal parenting time is best for the child. Large majorities favor it in all the locales and among all the demographic
groups in the United States and Canada in which this question has been asked, and across several variations in question format.

For example, in a nationwide poll done at the insistence of the Canadian Parliament, 78% of those asked said they “strongly preferred” or “somewhat preferred” a presumption of equal parenting post-divorce. In Massachusetts in 2004, 85% of voters in a non-binding referendum voted in favor of a presumption of equally shared parenting in custody cases.

Those have been followed up by recent studies done by Fabricius and Dr. Sanford Braver. In 2010, Fabricius asked a cohort of people waiting to serve on juries in Tucson the same question that Bay State residents were asked in the non-binding referendum. Some 87% of Arizonans asked favored the presumption of equally shared parenting.

This year, Braver, Fabricius, et al went further and designed a study that confronted respondents with various hypothetical fact situations and asked them to, in effect, be the judge, i.e. to “issue a custody order” in each hypothetical case.

When parents in the cases were said to have done about equal amounts of childcare during the marriage, 69% of respondents said they should have equal parenting time post-divorce. When childcare was radically unequal, almost half of respondents still awarded equal parenting time.

[...]Interestingly, fathers were more likely to be punished for instigating conflict than were mothers. Only 4% of respondents awarded equal parenting time to instigating fathers while 21% gave equal time to mothers responsible for conflict.

And with the next article it turns out it was mostly all about one survey. Now Robert Franklin argues against the researchers claim that fathers don't bargain hard enough:

To examine whether the residential time of children was related to the type of decision, cases in which there were no risk factors for either parent were compared. For agreed cases, 64% of the mothers received the majority of time, and 22% of mothers and fathers received equal time (see Exhibit 6). For the few contested cases, 67% of mothers received the majority of time, but only 5% of mothers and fathers received equal time.

So according to the Washington State data, contesting matters tends to be a bad idea for fathers. Certainly, those data aren’t definitive. They don’t tell us who’s contesting what and again the sample size isn’t large because the vast majority of cases are agreed to by the parties.

But what the data suggest is that things go better for dads if they don’t contest the case. Stated another way, they stand a better chance with their ex than they do with the judge.

In agreed cases, mothers get majority time in 64% of cases while in contested cases they rate goes up to 67%. That’s not much, but if a dad is going for equal time, contesting the matter is a bad idea. His chances of winning equal custody drop from 22% to 5% if he contests the matter.

Fabricius might argue that the same holds true for mothers. After all, her chances of getting equal time drop the same as dad’s - from 22% to 5%.

But that argument ignores one large, if inconvenient, truth. When a father fails to get equal time, he likely gets less; when a mother does, she likely gets more. So the drop from 22% to 5% of equal custody for both men and women when cases are contested masks an important fact - it’s a win for her and a loss for him.

Another fact that suggests bias against fathers and the idea of equal parenting is the fact that, although the idea has been around for many years, no jurisdiction (with the partial and short-lived exception of Australia) has ever passed a law mandating a presumption of equally shared parenting.

Granted, judges aren’t state legislators and vice versa, but the fact that proposed statutes establishing the presumption invariably fail surely tells us something about how fathers are viewed. Combine that with Fabricius and Braver’s conclusion that there’s widespread public support for equal parenting and we’re left with an unavoidable question - “why don’t legislatures do the will of the people in the case of equal parenting?”

Pretty good stuff. F&F almost always delivers. As usual I suggest you read it all.

We continue with data on shared parenting:

[From CHILD CUSTODY, ACCESS AND PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: by Dr. Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia]

A recent meta-analysis of the major North American studies comparing sole and joint physical custody arrangements has shown that children in joint custody arrangements fare significantly better on all adjustment measures than children who live in sole custody arrangements (Bauserman, 2002). Bauserman compared child adjustment in joint physical and joint legal custody settings with sole (maternal and paternal) custody settings, and also intact family settings, examined children’s general adjustment, family relationships, self-esteem, emotional and behavioral adjustment, divorce-specific adjustment, as well as the degree and nature of ongoing conflict between parents. On every measure of adjustment, children in joint physical custody arrangements were faring significantly better than children in sole custody arrangements: “Children in joint custody arrangements had fewer behavior and emotional problems, higher self-esteem, and better family relations and school performance than children in sole custody arrangements.” The positive outcomes of joint custody were also evident among high-conflict couples.

[...]Sole maternal custody often leads to parental alienation and father absence, and father absence is associated with negative child outcomes. Eighty five per cent of youth in prison are fatherless; 71 per cent of high school dropouts are fatherless; 90 per cent of runaway children are fatherless; and fatherless youth exhibit higher levels of depression and suicide, delinquency, promiscuity and teen pregnancy, behavioural problems and illicit and licit substance abuse (Statistics Canada, 2005; Crowder and Teachman, 2004; Ellis et al., 2003; Ringback Weitoft et al., 2003; Jeynes, 2001; Leonard et al., 2005; McCue Horwitz et al,, 2003; McMunn, 2001; Margolin and Craft, 1989; Blankenhorn, 1995; Popenoe, 1996; Vitz, 2000; Alexander, 2003). These studies also found that fatherless youth are more likely to be victims of exploitation and abuse, as father absence through divorce is strongly associated with diminished self-concepts in children (Parish, 1987).

[...]Children of divorce want equal time with their parents and consider shared parenting to be in their best interests. Seventy per cent of children of divorce believe that equal amounts of time with each parent is the best living arrangement for children, and children who have had equal time arrangements have the best relations with each of their parents after divorce (Fabricius, 2003).

[...]From the perspective of children, such de facto sole custody arrangements are woefully inadequate, often resulting in the loss of one of their primary caregivers. From the perspective of both international conventions (U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child) and reports such as that of the Special Joint House of Commons-Senate Committee on Child Custody and Access (1998), such arrangements undermine children’s fundamental need for both parents actively and responsibly involved in their lives.

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