I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence

Murray A. Straus

Commentary on Gramham-Kevan "Domestic Violence: Research and Implications for Batterer Programmes in Europe

Published online: 14 July 2007

Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Keywords Domestic violence• Feminism• Scientific bias

Graham-Kevan's paper fully documents overwhelming evidence that the "patriarchal dominance" theory of partner violence (PV from here on) explains only a small part of pv. Moreover, more such evidence is rapidly emerging. To take just one recent example, analyses of data from 32 nations in the International Dating Violence Study (Straus, 2007) Straus and International Dating Violence Research Consortium 2004) found about equal perpetration rates and a predominance of mutual violence in all 32 samples, including non-Western nations. Moreover, data from that study also show that, within a couple relationship, domination and control by women occur as often as by men and are as strongly associated with perpetration of PV by women as by men (Straus2007) Graham-Kevan also documents the absence of evidence indicating that the patriarchal dominance approach to prevention and treatment has been effective. In my opinion, it would be even more appropriate to say that what success has been achieved in preventing and treating PV has been achieved despite the handicaps imposed by focusing exclusively on eliminating male-dominance and misogyny, important as that is as an end in itself.

Graham-Kevan's paper raises the question of how an explanatory theory and treatment modality could have persisted for 30 years and still persists, despite hundreds of studies which provide evidence that PV has many causes, not just male-dominance. The answer is that it emerged from a convergence of a number of different historical and social factors. One of these is that gender symmetry in perpetration of partner violence is inconsistent with male predominance in almost all other crimes, especially violent crimes. Another is the greater injury rate suffered by female victims of PV brings female victimization to public attention much more often. Although there are many causes of the persistence of the patriarchal dominance focus, I believe that the predominant cause has been the efforts of feminists to conceal, deny, and distort the evidence. Moreover, these efforts include intimidation and threats, and have been carried out not only by feminist advocates and service providers, but also by feminist researchers who have let their ideological commitments overrule their scientific commitments. At the same time, it is important to recognize the tremendous contribution to human relationships and crime control made by feminist efforts to end violence against women.

Copies of related papers are available at http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2. The work has been supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant T32MH15161 and by the University of New Hampshire.

M. A. Straus (B) Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA email: murray.straus@unh.edu URL: http://pubpages.unh.edul-mas2

This effort has brought public attention the fact that PV may be the most prevalent form of interpersonal violence, created a world-wide determination to cease ignoring PV, and take steps to combat PV. It has brought the rule of law to one of the last spheres of life where 'self-help' justice (Black 1983) prevails by changing the legal status of domestic assaults, by changing police and court practices from one of ignoring and minimization PV to one of compelling the criminal justice system to attend and intervene. In addition, feminists have created two important new social institutions: shelters for battered women and treatment programs for male perpetrators. However, the exclusive focus on male perpetrators and the exclusive focus on just one of the many causes has stymied this extension of the rule of law and the effort to end domestic violence. Ironically, it has also handicapped efforts to protect women from PV and end PV by men (Feld and Straus 1989; Medeiros and Straus 2006; Straus 2007; Straus and Scott, in press). Consequently, information on how this could have occurred can be helpful in bringing about a change. This commentary identifies seven of the methods.

Methods Used to Conceal and Distort Evidence on Symmetry in Partner Violence

Method 1. Suppress Evidence

Researchers who have an ideological commitment to the idea that men are almost always the sole perpetrator often conceal evidence that contradicts this belief. Among researchers not committed to that ideology, many (including me and some of my colleagues) have withheld results showing gender symmetry to avoid becoming victims of vitriolic denunciations and ostracism (see Method 7 below). Thus, many researchers have published only the data on male perpetrators or female victims, deliberately omitting data on female perpetrators and male victims. This practice started with one of the first general population surveys on family violence. The survey done for the Kentucky Commission on the Status of Women obtained data on both men and women, but only the data on male perpetration was published (Schulman 1979). Among the many other examples of respected researchers publishing only the data on assaults by men are Kennedy and Dutton (1989); Lackey and Williams (1995); Johnson and Leone (2005); and Kaufman Kantor and Straus (1987).

Method 2. Avoid Obtaining Data Inconsistent with the Patriarchal Dominance Theory

In survey research, this method of concealment asks female participants about attacks by their male partners and avoids asking them if they had hit their male partner. The Canadian Violence against Women survey (Johnson and Sacco 1995), for example, used what can be called a feminist version of the Conflict Tactics Scales to measure PV. This version omitted the questions on perpetration by the female participants in the study. For the US National Violence against Women Survey (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000), the US Department of Justice originally planned the same strategy. Fortunately, the US Centers for Disease Control added a sample of men to the project. But when Johnson and Leone (Johnson and Leone 2005) investigated the prevalence of "intimate terrorists" among the participants in that study, they guaranteed there would be no female intimate terrorists by using only the data on male perpetrators. For a lecture in Montreal, I examined 12 Canadian studies. Ten of the 12 reported only assaults by men. The most recent example occurred in the spring of 2006 when a colleague approached the director of a university survey center about conducting a survey of partner violence if a recently submitted grant was awarded. A faculty member at that university objected to including questions on female perpetration, and the center director said he was not likely to do the survey if the funds were awarded.

Method 3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration

I could list a large number of journal articles showing selective citation, but instead I will illustrate the process with official document examples to show that this method of concealment and distortion is institutionalized in publications of governments, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization. For example, US Dept. of Justice publications almost always cite only the National Crime Victimization study, which shows male predominance (Durose et al. 2005). They ignore the Department of Justice published critiques, which led to a revision of the survey to correct that bias. However, the revision was only partly successful (Straus 1999), yet they continue to cite it and ignore other more accurate studies they have sponsored which show gender symmetry.

After delaying release of the results of the National Violence against Women for almost two years, the press releases issued by the Department of Justice provided only the "life-time prevalence" data and ignored the "past-year prevalence" data, because the lifetime data showed predominantly male perpetration, whereas the more accurate past-year data showed that women perpetrated 40% of the partner assaults.

The widely acclaimed and influential World Health Organization report on domestic violence (Krug et al. 2002) reports that "Where violence by women occurs it is more likely to be in the form of self-defense (32, 37, 38)." This is selective citation because almost all studies that have compared men and women find about equal rates of self-defense. Perhaps even worse, none of the three studies cited provide evidence supporting the quoted sentence. Study #32 (Saunders 1986) shows that 31 % of minor violence and 39% of severe was in self-defense, i.e., about two-thirds of female perpetrated PV was not in self-defense. Study #37 (DeKeseredy et al. 1997) found that only 7% of women said their violence was in self-defense. Study #38 (Johnson and Ferraro 2000) is a review paper that has no original data. It cites #32 and #37, neither of which supports the claim.

Method 4. Conclude That Results Support Feminist Beliefs When They Do Not

The studies cited above, in addition to illustrating selective citation, there are also examples of the ability of ideological commitment to lead researchers to misinterpret the results of their own research. A study by Kernsmith (2005), for example, states that "Males and females were found to differ in their motivations for using violence in relationships and that "female violence may be more related to maintaining personal liberty in a relationship than gaining power" (p. 180). However, although Kernsmith's Table 2 shows that women had higher scores on the "striking back" factor, only one question in this factor is about self-defense. The other questions in the factor are about being angry and coercing the partner. So, despite naming the factor as "striking back" it is mostly about anger and coercion. Therefore, the one significantly different factor shows that women more than men are motivated by anger at the partner and by efforts to coerce the partner. In addition, Kernsmith's conclusion ignores the fact that the scores for men and women were approximately equal in respect to two of the three factors ("exerting power" and "disciplining partner"). Thus, Kernsmith's study found the opposite of what was stated as the finding.

Method 5. Create "Evidence" by Citation

The Kernsmith study, the World Health Organization report, and the pattern of selective citation show how ideology can be converted into what can be called "evidence by citation" or what Gelles (1980) calls the "woozle effect." A woozle effect occurs when frequent citation of previous publications that lack evidence mislead us into thinking there is evidence. For example, subsequent to the World Health Organization study and the Kernsmith study, papers discussing gender differences in motivation will cite them to show that female violence is predominantly in self-defense, which is the opposite of what the research actually shows. But because these are citations of an article in a scientific journal and a respected international organization, readers of the subsequent article will accept it as a fact. Thus, fiction is converted into scientific evidence that will be cited over and over.

Another example is the claim that the Conflict Tactics Scales (Straus et al. 1996) does not provide an adequate measure of PV because it measures only conflict related violence. Although the theoretical basis of the CTS is conflict theory, the introductory explanation to participants specifically asks participants to report expressive and malicious violence. It asks respondents about the times when they and their partner "[ ...]disagree, get annoyed with the other person, want different things from each other, or just have spats or fights because they are in a bad mood, are tired or for some other reason."

Despite repeating this criticism for 25 years in perhaps a hundred publications, none of those publications has provided empirical evidence showing that only conflict-related violence is reported. In fact, where there are both CTS data and qualitative data, as in Giles-Sims (1983), it shows that the CTS elicits malicious violence as well as conflict-related violence. Nevertheless, because there are at least a hundred articles with this statement in peer reviewed journals, it seems to establish as a scientific fact what is only an attempt to blame the messenger for the bad news about gender symmetry in PY.

Method 6. Obstruct Publication of Articles and Obstruct Funding Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance Is the Cause of PV

I have documentation for only one case of publication being blocked, but I think this has often happened. The more frequent pattern is self-censorship by authors fearing that it will happen or that publication of such a study will undermine their reputation, and, in the case of graduate students, the ability to obtain a job.

An example of denying funding to research that might contradict the idea that PV is a male-only crime is the call for proposals to investigate partner violence issued in December 2005 by the National Institute of Justice. The announcement stated that proposals to investigate male victimization would not be eligible. Another example is the objection by a reviewer to a proposal a colleague and I submitted because of our "[... ]naming violence in a relationships as a 'human' problem of aggression not a gender-based problem." When priority scores by the reviewers are averaged, it takes only one extremely low score to place the proposal below the fundable level. Others have encountered similar blocks; for example Holtzworth-Munroe (2005). Eugen Lupri, a pioneer Canadian family violence researcher, has also documented examples of the resistance to funding and publishing research on female perpetrated violence (Lupri 2004).

Method 7. Harass, Threaten, and Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That Contradicts Feminist Beliefs

Suzanne Steinmetz made the mistake of publishing a book and articles (Steinmetz 1977, 1977-1978) which clearly showed about equal rates of perpetration by males and females. Anger over this resulted in a bomb threat at her daughters' wedding, and she was the object of a letter writing campaign to deny her promotion and tenure at the University of Delaware. Twenty years later the same processes resulted in a lecturer at the University of Manitoba whose dissertation found gender symmetry in PV being denied promotion and tenure.

My own experiences have included having one of my graduate students being warned at a conference that she will never get a job if she does her PhD research with me. At the University of Massachusetts, I was prevented from speaking by shouts and stomping. The chairperson of the Canadian Commission on Violence against Women stated at two hearings held by the commission that nothing that Straus publishes can be believed because he is a wife-beater and sexually exploits students, according to a Toronto Magazine article.

When I was elected president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and rose to give the presidential address, a group of members occupying the first few rows of the room stood up and walked out.

Concluding Comments

The seven methods described above have created a climate of fear that has inhibited research and publication on gender symmetry in PV and largely explain why an ideology and treatment modality has persisted for 30 years, despite hundreds of studies which provide evidence on the multiplicity of risk factors for PV, of which patriarchy is only one. Because of space limitations and because I am a researcher not a service provider, I have not covered the even greater denial, distortion and coercion in prevention and treatment efforts. An example is the director of a battered women's shelter who was terminated because she wanted to ask the residents whether they had hit their partner and the context in which that occurred. An example of governmental coercion of treatment is the legislation in a number of US states, and policies and funding restrictions in almost all US states that prohibit couple therapy for pv.

Finally, it was painful for me as feminist to write this commentary. I have done so for two reasons. First, I am also a scientist and, for this issue, my scientific commitments overrode my feminist commitments. Perhaps even more important, I believe that the safety and well being of women requires efforts to end violence by women and the option to treat partner violence in some cases as a problem of psychopathology, or in the great majority of cases, as a family system problem (Straus and Scott, in press; Hamel and Nicholls 2006).


Black, D. (1983). Crime as social control. American Sociological Review, 48(1), 34---45.

DeKeseredy, W. S., Saunders, D. G., Schwartz, M. D., & Shahid, A. (1997). The meanings and motives for women's use of violence in Canadian college dating relationships: Results from a National Survey. Sociological Spectrum, 17, 199-222.

Durose, M. R. Wolf Harlow. C. Langan. P. A., Motivans, M., Rantala, R. R., & Smith, E. L. (2005). Family violence statistics including statistics on strangers and acquaintances (No. NCJ 207846). Washington, DC.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Feld, S. L, & Straus, M. A. (1989), Escalation and desistance of wife assault in marriage. Criminology, 27 (1),141-161.

Gelles, R. J. (1980). Violence in the family: A review of research in the seventies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 42, 873-885.

Giles-Sims, J. (1983). Wife battering: A systems theory approach. New York: Guilford Press.

Hamel, J., & Nicholls, T. (Eds.). (2006). Family approaches in domestic violence: A practitioner's guide to gender-inclusive research and treatment: Springer.

Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2005). Female perpetration of physical aggression against an intimate partner: A controversial new topic of study. Violence and Victims, 20(2), 251-259.

Johnson, H., & Sacco, V. F. (1995). Researching violence against women: Statistics Canada's national survey. Canadian Journal 0f Criminology, 281-304, July.

Johnson, M. P., & Ferraro, K. J. (2000). Research on domestic violence in the 1990's: Making distinctions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62(4), 948-963.

Johnson, M. P., & Leone, J. M. (2005). The differential effects of intimate terrorism and situational couple violence -findings from the national violence against women survey. Journal Of Family Issues, 26(3), 322-349.

Kaufman Kantor, G., & Straus, M. A. (1987). The drunken bum theory of wife beating. Social Problems, 34, 213-230.

Kennedy, L. W., & Dutton, D. G. (1989). The incidence of wife assault in Alberta. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science. 21( 1), 40-54.

Kernsmith, P. (2005). Exerting power or striking back: A gendered comparison of motivations for domestic violence perpetration. Victims and Violence, 20(2), 173-185.

Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., Lozano, R., & World Health Organization. (2002). World report 0n violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Lackey, E., & Wii!iams, K. R. (1995). Social bonding and the cessation of partner violence across generations, Journal of Marriage and the family, 57, 295-305,

Lupri, E. (2004). Institutional resistance to acknowledging intimate male abuse, Counter-Roundtable Conference on Domestic Violence. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Medeiros, R. A., & Straus, M, A. (2006). Risk factors for physical violence between dating partners: Implications for gender-inclusive prevention and treatment of family violence. In j, e. Hamel & T. Nicholls (Eds,), Family approaches to domestic violence: A practitioners Guide to gender-inclusive research and treatment. Springer (also available at http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2),

Saunders, D. G, (1986). When battered women use violence: Husband-abuse or self-defense? Violence and Victims, 1(1),47-60.

Schulman, M. (1979), A survey of spousal violence against women in Kentucky. Washington, DC: U,S. Government Printing Office.

Steinmetz, S. K. (1977). The cycle of violence: Assertive, aggressive, and abusive family interaction. New York: Praeger.

Steinmetz, S. K. (1977-1978). The battered husband syndrome. Victimology. 2, 499-509.

Straus, M. A. (1999). The controversy over domestic violence by women: A methodological, theoretical, and sociology of science analysis. In X. Arriaga & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Violence in intimate relationships (pp, 17-44). Thousand Oaks. CA: Sage.

Straus, M. A., (2007) Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female University Students in 32 nations, Children and Youth Services Revue", . doi 10.1016/j.child youth.2007.10.004

Straus, M, A., & International Dating Violence: Research Consortium, (2004). Prevalence of Violence against dating partners by male and female university students worldwide. Violence Against Women, 10(7), 790-811.

Straus, M. A" & Scott, K. (In press). Gender symmetry in partner violence: The evidence, the denial, and the implications for primary prevention and treatment. In J. R. Lutzker & D, J. Whitaker (Eds.), Prevention of partner violence, Washington D.C. : American Psychological Association,

Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., & Sugarman, D. B. (1996). The revised conflict tactics scales (CTS2): Development and preliminary psychometric data, Journal of Family Issues, 17(3), 283-316.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the national violence against women survey (No, NCJ 183781), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research


Nicola Grahm-Kevan

E-mail: Ngraham-Kevan@uclan.ac.uk

Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire

Having been involved from the very beginning in researching family violence, Straus is in a unique position to provide a commentary on Graham-Kevan (2007).

Straus' commentary provides an excellent but worrying synopsis of the methods that have been employed by some feminist scholars and advocates for over 30 years to suppress research and dialogue that is perceived as having the potential to undermine the feminist conceptualization of domestic violence. The effects of this are insidious, and distort an entire research area. I not only fully endorse Straus' commentary but also would like to add one additional method that I frequently come across. This method relies on people's fear of statistics to misrepresent information for ideological reasons.

Method 8: Playing with numbers

As statistical rigor becomes more important in the design of official surveys, so the bias' evident in many older data sets are eliminated. This has the effect of making the results more valid. This is a problem if the author is motivated by ideological beliefs, as methodologically sound studies consistently find parity in the use of partner violence by men and women. In the case of official data, the authors charged with writing up reports can not merely ignore the findings (Straus' methods 1 and 2). In these cases ideologically driven authors manipulate the figures in such a way as to make women's victimization more visible while obscuring men's. The US department of Justice reports (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/are a good place to look to find examples of playing with numbers (although you could equally look on many other official statistic websites e.g., the UK Home Office site).

Using 1998 figures we are told that 3.7% of all murders of men are by intimate partners, whereas 33.5% of murders of women were by intimate partners. In the same report we are told "[I]ntimate partner violence made up 20% of violent crime against women in 2001. By contrast, during the year intimate partners committed 3% of all nonfatal violence against men." (p. 2). The implication is that intimate partner violence and homicide are overwhelmingly a concern for female victims, and that male victimization is so unusual it can be ignored. This is not the case as well designed studies, using nonbiased sampling procedures find that men and women are equally likely to be subjected to violence from an intimate partner. Which begs the question: how can the figures above appear in governmental reports? The answer lies in the way statistics are routinely manipulated to misrepresent the nature of partner violence. For example, if you go to the US Department of Justice website (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm you can calculate the proportions of all homicide victims that are men. Here we are informed that male victims constitute 74.5% of all victims of homicide, with both male and female perpetrators being more likely to target male rather than female victims. Interestingly you do not get his information in any of the US update documents for homicide (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm you have to calculate it. What this tells us is that men are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of homicide than are women per se. Men are three times more likely to be killed than women, by a more diverse range of perpetrators. A more honest figure, therefore, is the proportion of all intimate homicide victims that are men. Now this figure is not given, but if you go back to the document on intimate violence in 1998 (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ipv.pdf), you can work out that in 28% of all intimate partner homicides the victims are men. This proportion undermines claims that men are not victims of partner violence and so such figures are not presented.

This type of reporting appears to be a deliberate attempt to distort findings to either support preexisting beliefs or avoid the wrath of those that do hold such beliefs. While some advocates may be unaware of the empirical literature on domestic violence, this excuse is not available to academics who by the very nature of their profession have a duty to be aware of conflicting evidence within their research areas. The reason for this suppression cannot, therefore, be the result of simple omission. The methods detailed by Straus and above suggest active suppression and subversion. Such behaviors have no place in academia or governmental responses to the problem of family violence.

In OZ they write inflammatory headlines ~ Courts continue to grant access to violent parents

Overington and company are at it again. Note the headline. Given we know that females almost always get physical custody who is the headline targeted at do you think. This gender war continues to go on with the spurious notion that men are responsible for greater abuse of their children when in fact it is the females. Why do otherwise intelligent people get caught up in an ideological fixation that giving dads more access to his own children somehow is wrong. If a parent has abused their child deal with it on its merits but don't impact a whole gender because of mythology. Remember it is the mother who is most abusive. Repeat 100 times on the chalk board Overington until it sinks in.MJM

Caroline Overington | October 05, 2009

Article from: The Australian

THE Family Court rarely makes orders preventing a parent from seeing their children, even in cases where there is a history of violence.

That is the conclusion of the Australian Government Solicitor's report into domestic violence law, delivered last week to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland. The report, Domestic Violence Laws in Australia, says violent parents are getting access to their children, in part because the court doesn't regard an apprehended violence order as proof of violence, or else doesn't know one exists.

The result, says the report, is a system in which it is "relatively rare for a court to make an order ... that denies a parent contact with a child, including in cases involving allegations of family violence".

Where family violence is alleged but not supported by evidence, the court "is likely to make orders for contact between children and parents. There is some evidence that courts take a more cautious approach to contact issues when allegations of family violence are substantiated by evidence. However, it remains rare for a court to deny a parent any contact with a child."

The problem with this is that "the absence of evidence of violence cannot be assumed to mean that the allegation is unfounded or untrue". The government solicitor notes that family violence "often goes unreported at the time it is committed".

Then, too, the report says courts are busy encouraging parents to be "friendly" with each other after divorce. Those who aren't may get less time with their children. The result is that "women who cannot prove their claims of past violence may be advised not to raise the issues at all, for fear of being labelled unfriendly or hostile".

The report says the Howard government's shared parenting laws, introduced in 2006, have set up a regime where contact between children and both their parents is almost always considered to be in the child's best interests. The laws are being reviewed by the Australian Law Reform Commission, which is considering "what, if any" improvements to the law could be made "to protect the safety of women and their children" and by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, whose evaluation will include a study of whether it is more difficult for parents to relocate after divorce.

The shared parenting laws were designed to ensure that children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives after separation. The underlying principle is that children "have a right to know and be cared for by both their parents" while being protected from "physical or psychological harm".

The government solicitor's report says the shared parenting law "does not state clearly which of the objects and purposes should be given priority if there is a tension or conflict between them".

"The greatest potential for conflict probably arises when a parenting order under the Family Law Act and a state or territory domestic violence protection order are in force at the same time."

Divorce: Be an adult for your child's sake

Oct 3, 2009 10:46 PM | By Judith Ancer

There are ways to minimise the trauma a child feels when parents break up, writes Judith Ancer

SHHH: Parents should know which topics they should not discuss in front of their kids
quote It is not possible to predict how most children will deal with divorce, only how an individual child might respond quote

It had been a bad day at work, having to listen to a divorced couple fighting about who had damaged the children the most.I was left thinking that the only upside of toxic, distressing divorces is that there will always be work for psychotherapists, who have to treat the child casualties of these warring parents.

The writer Margaret Atwood said that divorce was like an amputation: "You survive it, but there's less of you."

Divorce is painful, prolonged and complicated, and divorcing parents have to summon all their courage to be one main thing - the adult.

Sadly, a "happy divorce" is not the norm and there are few palatable truths when children are involved. Research shows that it is not possible to predict how most children will deal with divorce, only how an individual child might respond. It is thought that the younger a child is when their parents divorce, the more difficulties they have as a result. Research also indicates that boys tend to struggle more than girls do. Other factors are:

  • The child's adjustment to life before the divorce proceedings begin;
  • The mood and attitude of the parents over the divorce period - a highly depressed parent has a greater effect on a child than one who is better able to manage his or her own feelings; and
  • The level of conflict between parents and to what degree the child has contact with both parents over the divorce period.

To add to the sombre picture, let us dispel a few myths. Firstly, children often adjust to a bad marriage and prefer to have the family together instead of it splitting up. When you justify your actions by saying your child will be happier when you become happier after the divorce, you underestimate to what degree children struggle to overcome their powerful emotions and reason through the whole experience.

Research shows that children of divorce are generally more sexually active, more depressed, more confrontational with peers, more aggressive with teachers and more likely to get divorced in future. On the other hand, children who have two parents and an intact home benefit from routine and stability. It seems that children's happiness is more influenced by stability than their parents' level of happiness.

Secondly, it is certainly true that a "civilised" divorce is better than a highly destructive and traumatic one. But underestimating and minimising the effect of any kind of divorce is a mistake. In almost any divorce there is hurt, anger and frustration. These feelings have a way of filtering down to your children.

According to Judith Wallerstein, a US psychologist who has researched the long-term consequences of divorce, "the parents' anger at the time of the break-up is not what matters most. Unless there was violence or abuse or high conflict, a child has dim memories of what transpired during this supposedly critical period".

What is more significant is the longer-term relationship between the divorced parents after the initial separation and divorce has happened. What must be dealt with in an ongoing way are the bruised feelings, sadness and anger that are difficult to process, and even the changed financial situation and complex visitation arrangements.

Do not buy into the whole myth that if you just deal with the divorce process in an orderly manner things will be okay. Rather plan to put lots of energy into the aftermath of divorce.

So what if, despite knowing all of the above, you still need to get divorced?

1. Look after yourself so you can help your child;

2. Do not blame or insult the other parent or argue with your ex-spouse in front of the children. When you criticise the other parent, you criticise half of the two people with whom your child identifies;

3. Know what to talk about and what to keep quiet. Tell your child the truth about the divorce and acknowledge their - and your - feelings, but keep legal or financial details of the divorce to yourself. Children feel confused when parents share too much detail with them;

4. Do not keep a spy in the other home. This damages your child's sense of how to manage conflict;

5. Allow visitation rights - do not sabotage your children's relationship with your ex;

6. Avoid buying your children's love with gifts and indulgences. Invest thought, consideration, attention, affection, pride and time in your children; and

7. Be the adult. This is the hardest one to do. A colleague commented that there is probably no clearer evidence of maturity than to be able to allow, and even encourage, your children to have a relationship with a person you may despise or hate.

By looking at the big picture and acting as calmly and maturely as possible, you give your child the best chance of growing up into a healthy adult who has healthy relationships.

  • Ancer is a Johannesburg-based psychologist


Oct 4 2009 01:45:32 gary1234
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Fathers 4 Justice www.f4j.co.za thinks that more people need to be exposed to the reality of divorce; this article does a fantastic job for doing just that. There is some additional information that we would like to high light around a divorce, when it comes to the divorce process and our children. 1. We have been brainwashed that when you get divorced you need to get a lawyer – this could not be further from the truth. a. The legal system by its very nature is psychologically confrontational and if anything will enflame the conflict and do untold damage to the children. b. The average divorce takes 4 – 5 years to be completed if you do not behave like an adult c. The average divorce costs between R 600 000.00 and R1, 2 Mill per parent. d. You either end up with the same or worse off at point of divorce. e. A lose - lose scenario is created no matter how much your hired gun lawyer screws your ex over for. f. It does not interest me which parent gets to the lawyer first this is irrelevant, however what you need to know is that when you go to a lawyer YOU are declaring war – and as you know in a war there are casualties. In this divorce war there is and always will be casualties and the first casualty is ALLWAYS the children. 2. Children DO HEAR all that is going on and they do hear how the one parent is going to plot the destruction of the other parent. This scares them and makes for psychological problems now and into the future. 3. To deny maintenance or access as punishment to the other parent IS CHILD ABUSE. 4. If you deny the other parent rights of free, easy, unrestricted Access, Care, guardianship and maintenance you are abusing your children. a. It is not your right to determine the relationship between the child and the other parent. b. Do not use the legal and psychological fraternity to determine that relationship. The legal and psychological fraternity have displayed beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are fundamentally inept and incapable of handling this situation. If anything these two professions do far more harm than good. c. Even if there is violence, abuse or neglect you still have no right to determine the relationship between the abusive parent and the children. d. If there is abuse, violence or neglect by one or both parent’s – then have the visitation / access supervised. 5. Girl children stand a 95% chance of being raped or molested in a single mothered home – this reduces to 5 % in a single fathered home. 6. Children as the article points out do experiment in sexual or drug related behaviour far more earlier where the father is absent 7. Children performed academically far better in a single fathered home than in a single mothered home. 8. However the notion that the mother or father is the best parent is also false. The best parent for a child is both parents. 9. The notion that a young child/ baby / toddler should have less access to the non resident parent is also false, if anything this should be as liberal as possible. 10. CHILDREN MUST HAVE FREE, EASY, UNRISTRICTED ACCESS TO BOTH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS AT ALL TIMES. If you must divorce or separate, the solution is mediation. Mediation is the adult thing to do. If you mediate you are behaving in the best interest of your children and yourself. Mediation requires commitment and dedication. Mediation allows for 1. The healing process to begin 2. The reduction in conflict 3. A safe haven / space for emotional charged topics to be discussed in a rational manner, where proper adult discussion and decisions can be made. 4. If the children are old enough for them to have a space to voice what it is that they want nad for this to be included in a final agreement. 5. A space to discuss issues that may arise in the future. 6. Mediation should take approximately 3 x one and a half hour sessions it may take longer (mine for instance took 7 sessions over 10 months. – It was well worth the effort and commitment by my ex and the mediator) 7. Cost of mediation costs between R 900.00 to R 1500.00 per Hour per individual – This is a complete barging in my mind. 8. Mediation puts you in the driving seat, it gives you your power back and it allows you to be the primary decision maker. 9. Mediation allows for a WIN - WIN -WIN solution to be found for all three parties. If you litigate you are childish, selfish, immature, spiteful, and revengeful and deserve to be taken to the cleaners by your hired gun because that is exactly what is going to happen If you litigate you are not conducting yourself in the best interest of the children. When you litigate the best interests of the children never entre the negotiation room let alone the table. If you litigate, by the time you start discussing what is in the best of the children, it is too late the damage has already been done - the right and best interest of the children has already been violated. For support and advice, please visit our site www.f4j.co.za and visit our sister organisation, SADSA - The South African Divorce Support Association http://www.sadsa.net/site/index.php DO NOT LITIGATE - MEDIATE

The good divorce

During a marriage both parents are implied equals. There is no gender bias. Suddenly the marriage ends and the mom is given the children physical custody in over 90% of cases. Judges give bread crumbs to dads through a "joint custody" order which means he is very less than equal, but somehow has more say than the dad relegated to visitor status. In most families both mom and dad work and in most studies the amount of time both parents spend with children is close to equal. 

Edward Kruk, PhD from UBC, unlike Pamela Cross who is not a scientist but makes a living from Divorce, is an expert on custody, shows a parent needs at least a 40% time with a child to maintain a bond. Anything less causes a deterioration. When that occurs it can be emotionally abusive to children and friction can increase between spouses.

The title of the piece will throw you off as it is an oxymoron. There can be less frictional divorces and ones that have two parents who know the best thing for the children is to have two fit parents in their lives but what is available to try and save these marriages. We have non-experts like Feminist Pamela Cross who is ideologically predisposed to favour a woman's perspective, regardless of the merits. She is not a custody expert but makes her living on the lucrative business of family divorce. She offers no citations for her comments and they are not true if one actually does research. The average litigated contested divorce runs about $25,000.00 per client for the Family Law lawyer. They do not want shared parenting on economic grounds let alone any other predispositions or bias'.

Pamela Cross is an ideologically driven Victim Feminist Lawyer who believes the 3rd wave feminist construct that men are abusers - women are victims. She has a vested interest in the current very adversarial very sexist approach to custody in Family Law (FLAW). Cross is quoted as follows: "Entrenching the notion of shared parenting in law is dangerous because it doesn't take into account each family's unique circumstances and makes it more difficult for abused women to move on from controlling or violent ex-partners, says Pamela Cross, director of the National Association of Women and the Law.

It can also be harmful to children, she says. "More and more research is showing that kids actually need the stability and security of saying, `This is my home,' as opposed to `These are my homes,'" Cross says."

I submitted this observation to the Star's comments sections as well but they appear to be avoiding publishing anything contrary to what Cross has stated so far.
"Pamela Cross has stated her opinion on shared parenting but does not appear to have any evidence of a credible nature. Can the Star provide the studies with which she seems so certain. I am unaware of them. In fact I would suggest these opinions are wrong based on my own research which I can provide to the author. I would  recommend when someone is requested to provide comments and an allusion is made they may be qualified as some sort of expert they also provide the studies from which they draw their conclusions. To suggest shared parenting is dangerous is a canard. To suggest it is harmful to children is not supported by social science. In fact the opposite is true."

Lets deconstruct what Cross is saying. Even though DV is pretty much equal and studies show women initiate the disputes more often than men Cross wants us to believe it is a male abuser - female benign status quo. Her views are ideologically driven not scientific. It is the current 3rd wave feminist credo. We read about no shortage of female violence and just saw the Oshawa woman being charged with attempted murder on her 6 year old daughter. See here http://tinyurl.com/yed2snv. In the USA and Australia the most dangerous place for a child is with a single mother. The safest place for children is an intact marriage.

Judges will have discretion and if a parent is unfit that will be taken into consideration. The feminists like to reach for these canards and she is regurgitating the lines from her "Sisters" in Australia that have no basis in fact. It is a desperate attempt to use lies in order to continue the gender discrimination currently in place.

The notion children need one house is nonsense and she gives no citation for this observation. It is important for the parents to live close to one another and to try and keep the same friends and school. That kind of stability can occur with cooperating parents and a helpful support system.

The current budget for women's issues in Ontario at Minister Deb Matthews disposal is $208,000,000.00. This is for a single gender only. This includes tax supported dollars to DV shelters and other support services. It is common knowledge in the divorce community these shelters have an indoctrination process (the polite term is "intake"). The type of information flow from the shelter to the client is based on 3rd wave Victim Feminism (sometimes called, Gender and Lifeboat Feminism). The shelter will tell the woman she is a victim (lets treat the client with negatives all the better to develop co-dependency), and she is not only a victim of her male partner (even though Lesbian DV is higher) but the far reaching Patriarchy.

This, in the Victim Feminist world view, is equivalent to these large megalithic criminal organizations James Bond fights so valiantly against. Who remembers SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Think of the Patriarchy in those terms, according to the feminist mantra, to get an idea of what the client faces at a shelter. These heroin workers at the shelter will try and exorcise the Patriarchy out of the client and - are you waiting for this - "EMPOWER" her out of the marriage and into single motherhood with all its attendant negative social outcomes, especially for children. They will refer the client to Lawyers like Pamela Cross who may gain financially from her relationship with the shelter industry. Surely she doesn't do it pro bono? And this symbiosis is only the tip of the iceberg. Tax dollars flow inside a closed loop of "believers" and like a parasitic force they feed off one another to the detriment of children.

When time permits I will deconstruct a typical shelter, its ideological base, its indoctrination process, its lack of accountability for tax payer money, the lack of financial and operational audits, and get some focus on the relationships of people like Cross and the Academics who get sole source contracts to write up pseudo-scientific baffle gab to reinforce the ideology.

DV is a serious issue but as a single gender approach not helpful in reconstructing marriages but very helpful in conflict multiplication. Check out the model of the Calgary Counselling Centre to see what a holistic family approach might be to get very early intervention in deteriorating marriages, especially if the spouses are being abusive toward one another. Wouldn't it be better to spend tax dollars for families rather than a single gender approach which is solving nothing and creating further dependencies on the Nanny state?

Kristin and Leonard show what two parents can do to give balance, love, support and substance to their children despite their differences. What a positive example.MJM

Ex-spouses Leonard Margison and Kristin Titus worked out an arrangement to share equally in raising sons Joshua, left, and Shawn.
Rethinking custody: Putting children first
October 04, 2009
Susan Pigg
Living Reporter

Shawn Margison was just 7 when the strain of his parents' separation played itself out centre stage as he sang with his Grade 1 class at what's normally a happy family event, spring concert.
"The minute he caught sight of his dad in the gym, he just started bawling," says Newcastle resident Kristin Titus, who had had sole custody of Shawn and his younger brother, Joshua, since separating from her husband two years earlier.
"He just kept singing and crying with this smile on his face. People were looking at me, trying to figure out what was wrong."
Titus knew immediately. She had seen this coming for months.
"It was just destroying my kids not having their dad around," she says.
After the concert, Titus urged her ex, Leonard Margison, to take the boys out for an ice cream and some time at a park. Later that night, over coffee at Titus's kitchen table, the couple mapped out a radically new life for their sons.
For the past nine years, Titus and Margison have shared equally in raising Shawn and Joshua under two separate roofs.
One week, the children are at their mother's well-worn bungalow on the semi-rural outskirts of Newcastle, east of Oshawa. There they have friends, two dogs and a sprawling property where they can roast marshmallows over a bonfire.
The next week, they have a different set of friends, a big extended family and the latest high-tech gadgets – from PlayStation 3 to a 42-inch flat-screen TV – in a subdivision in nearby Courtice, where they live with their dad in a neat, split-level house where Shawn likes to blast out heavy metal on his guitar.
"At first it took a little getting used to," Shawn says. "Sometimes I would forget my bag or my guitar or skateboard, but my parents would drive me to pick them up. It's actually a lot simpler than it looks."
The ex-spouses now have new partners, but they confer regularly on issues affecting the kids. And it's a quick commute to school from both houses – although Shawn, 16, recently decided to live with his father full-time while Joshua, 14, continues to come and go.
"Living like this doesn't really affect me," says Joshua. "I have friends in both places and my parents will drive us anywhere we want to go. I get to see both my parents. I can't say it has a down side at all."
In Australia, where drastic divorce reforms in 2006 are aimed at making shared parenting the new norm, Shawn and Joshua might be considered "shuttle" or "ping-pong" kids. There debate is raging over whether the state has actually done more harm than good by, in essence, outlawing the age-old notion that Mom should get sole custody and Dad every second weekend with the kids.
The notion of "shared parenting" has been on the back burner in Canada since it was recommended in 1998 as part of Ottawa's landmark "For the Sake of the Children" report.
But things have been heating up recently thanks to Bill C-422, a private member's bill which stands almost no chance of becoming law yet has unleashed new debate about what should take precedence after a relationship fails – the best interests of the children or the rights of their parents.
What shocked Titus, 36, and her ex, 44, was how difficult it was to get a lawyer to help redraft their custody and support-payment agreement – and a judge to okay it.
"I went to six different lawyers who basically all told me if I had the kids, I could take Len for all he was worth," recalls Titus. "I just kept asking them, `How is that going to be good for my kids?'"
What she saw as a "bias" in family law toward mothers so frustrated Titus, she joined the advocacy groups Fathers-4-Justice and the Canadian Equal Parenting Council to fight for change and now sits on their executives.
"Most of the men I know start out searching for shared custody," she says. "They give up that fight somewhere along the way either because their money has been exhausted (on lawyers), they're seeing what the court fight is doing to their children, or it's just killing them. Their lawyers tell them, `Don't even bother. You won't get it.'"
Ontario family court judge Harvey Brownstone says it's imperative that he and his colleagues – whom he describes as "strangers" asked to decide a child's future because the parents can't – try to "maximize each parent's time with the child.
"But it has to be practical," he continues.
"Children have to be able to endure the toing and froing that can be disruptive if they go to school. I often see parents who say, `I want the child every second day,' but one lives in Oshawa and one lives in Mississauga."
Entrenching the notion of shared parenting in law is dangerous because it doesn't take into account each family's unique circumstances and makes it more difficult for abused women to move on from controlling or violent ex-partners, says Pamela Cross, director of the National Association of Women and the Law.
It can also be harmful to children, she says. "More and more research is showing that kids actually need the stability and security of saying, `This is my home,' as opposed to `These are my homes,'" Cross says.
Australia began reviewing its laws around divorce and separation after a 2003 national survey showed 36 per cent of the 1,000 separated men in the study hadn't seen their children in the last year. Eighty per cent of those estranged fathers indicated they wanted to see their kids but couldn't because of factors ranging from conflict with their ex, to distance, lack of money or the remarriage of one or both partners, says Patrick Parkinson, a University of Sydney law professor and one of the architects of Australia's reforms.
Before the reforms, less than 5 per cent of Australian men shared custody with their ex-partners. In the last three years, shared parenting arrangements have virtually doubled, and mid-week overnight visits have become the new norm in Australia, Parkinson said.
There's no doubt the reforms are working: There's already been an 18 per cent drop in family court filings, especially around custody and access issues, says Parkinson. But there have also been a handful of "manic" decisions from judges, he acknowledges.
One of the most extreme cases is Rosa v. Rosa. It involves a couple who had moved to an Outback mining town with their 5-year-old daughter so the husband could take a job as a mining engineer. Six months later, after the husband declared the marriage over, the wife moved back to Sydney with the child. Last May a family court judge ordered her to return to the remote town and share custody with her ex, even though she protested that she would be cut off from family and only be able to afford a trailer.
There have also been a couple of "horrific" shared custody judgments involving young children, such as the 4-year-old girl who was being forced to fly 1,200 kilometres every three weeks between her mother and father's house. While the child's father said his daughter was weathering the unusual commute fine, it was costing her parents about $20,000 a year.
"I thought everyone would use their common sense," says Parkinson, who says the legislation, which is now undergoing a major review, clearly needs amending to exclude preschoolers from shared custody and long commutes.
Michael Green is an Australian criminal lawyer and divorced dad who pushed for shared parenting in that country – except where abuse, addictions or other factors make one parent unfit.
"I hear good reports from lots of people that their kids are happier and the fighting (in family court) has settled down between the parents," says Green, former president of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia.
Green expects to see shared parenting climb over time, although acknowledges there are many men who are more comfortable having their ex-wives as the primary caregivers.
While few statistics exist on family law issues in Canada, lawyers in Ontario say they have seen a significant jump in shared parenting arrangements among ex-partners.
Ontario's family court judges – sensitive to fathers' protests of unfair treatment – appear to have made significant strides in granting joint custody, but the term is really a misnomer. It gives dads some say in key issues like their children's education and medical treatment, but the kids tend to live with Mom and "visit" Dad every second weekend and one night during the week.
Shawn and Joshua's father acknowledges that his sons would be doing just that if it hadn't been for that tearful school concert.
"It was devastating for me not to have a family life anymore," says Margison. "Having them every second weekend almost felt worse. I had to cram everything I possibly could into that two days, and it was just too much – or not enough.
"This has added a lot to my life. I really feel complete now watching my children grow up."