TROUBLE AHEAD FOR BABIES OF DIVORCE
Autor: Lauren Martin
Fuente: Sydney Morning Herald
The majority of babies who live alternately with their divorced parents develop long-lasting psychological problems, new research has found.
Such arrangements cause enduring "disorganised attachment" in 60 per cent of infants under 18 months, says a clinical psychologist and family therapist, Jennifer McIntosh.
As older children and adults, they have "alarming levels of emotional insecurity and poor ability to regulate strong emotion".
Dr McIntosh called the presumption of 50-50 shared parenting, the focus of a federal parliamentary inquiry into child custody, a "dangerous idea".
She made a submission, based on research in the Journal of Family Studies, to the family and community affairs committee yesterday.
Dr McIntosh agreed that the sensitive involvement of both parents was vital to children's adjustment after family breakdown but said the greatest damage came from continuing parental conflict, whatever the living arrangements.
"Shared parenting in the absence of a parental relationship that can support the necessary co-operation is fraught for children, particularly pre-schoolers.
"Equally, shared residence, that often manifests in week-about arrangements, runs counter to the developmental needs for a secure predictable existence with their primary attachment figure, be that father or mother."
A bond with at least one caregiver could profoundly influence a child's development, but prolonged absences from this person and multiple transitions confused infants, especially when parents were in conflict.
For infants who had regular access to their non-residential parent, but no overnight visits, attachment was normal.
As well, shared residence in early adolescence was viable and useful, provided parents managed their conflict and the child was allowed some choice.
A mediator from Relationships Australia, Dianne Gibson, said it was best for young children to spend some time with both parents, but not necessarily overnight. Evidence did not show that shared residence was beneficial to children or workable for most parents.
Lawrie Maloney, director of LaTrobe University's department of counselling and psychological health, said the equal residency proposal tapped into the desire for better parent-child relationships. "But a rebuttable presumption of 50-50 residency . . . cannot and should not succeed from either a legal or social perspective."