Scientific Research Rejects the “Tender Years Doctrine”

What is the “Tender Years Doctrine?” This is the belief that very young children – infants, toddlers, and children up to four years of age – should spend all their overnights in one location.

  • It has been used to justify many court orders denying or restricting access between a fit parent and his or her children.
  • But it is not supported by a broad consensus of scientific researchers.
  • A definitive “Consensus Report,” published in a widely respected journal shows that the evidence supports overnights with both parents when the parents live separately.
  • At a scientific conference on Monday, May 29, 2017 the author of the Consensus Report, Dr Richard Warshak, told the story of an attempt by several prominent clinicians to suppress the Report.
    • They tried to prevent publication.
    • They asked the journal editors not to publish the names of the 110 scientists who support the Concensus Report.
    • They then resorted to calling the report “divisive.”
    • Not surprisingly, the clinicians trying to suppress the report profit from high conflict divorce cases.

In the dry language of science: “Sufficient evidence does not exist to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. The theoretical and practical considerations favoring overnights for most young children are more compelling than concerns that overnights might jeopardize children’s development.” (p. 46, Warshak, 2014).

Source: Dr. Richard Warshak, Clinical Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report.”  Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. 2014, Vol. 20, No. 1, 46–67. This journal ranks in the top 75 out of 252 psychology journals according to Scopus statistics on citation impact.

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