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.
The National Parents Organization (NPO.org) is sponsoring a group of experts on shared parenting. Some highlights from the NPO website, http://npo-icsp2017.org/ :
Research suggests that fully half of troubled children and adolescents derive from conflicted, separated and divorced families. The faculty will delve into the relationship between different types of post-divorce parenting arrangements and children’s subjective and objective outcomes, their attachment to parental figures, and specific issues such as age and developmental level, high conflict, domestic violence, and parental alienation. The conference offers the rare opportunity to interact with leading legal and mental health scholars from around the world on this important topic. The program will include plenary sessions, panel discussions, question and answer sessions, and break-out workshops.
Given the high prevalence of conflicted, separated and divorced families, this conference will be of great benefit to all varieties of child and family practitioners and scholars, including any who deal with family policy, family law, psychology, child mental and physical health, alienation, domestic violence or family dynamics This is an unusual opportunity to learn from so many distinguished scholars from Australia to Europe to North America, any of whom would qualify as a keynote speaker, all at one conference. Information on continuing education can be found in the Program.
Email email@example.com for a pdf of the full program.
Registration and housing information: http://npo-icsp2017.org/registrationhousing/
A Hartford Courant article (October 6, 2015, p A1) quotes a parent as saying that this “is the worst possible experience a father and mother could have. Your children are alive, you know where they are, but you can’t see them.” This describes very accurately “splitting” or alienating behavior. Too often the state of Connecticut assists in splitting children from one or both parents.
Too often, a parent with some easily treated disability such as ADD is prevented from seeing their child. Massachusetts is moving to change court ordered alienation according to the Courant article:
By Linda J. Gottlieb Kase, LMFT, LCSW-r
March 18, 2015
Despite the abuse and neglect suffered by the 3000 foster care children who had been under my care, it was extremely uncommon for those children to refuse contact with a parent—even with an overtly abusive parent. Rather, abused children tend to protect and cling to the abusive parent. Moreover, in the rare cases in which that did appear to happen, there was always some evidence of indoctrination or programming (typically by foster parents who had the surreptitious goal of adopting the child). Thus, it is counter-instinctual for a child to reject a parent—even an abusive parent. When a professional observes a child strongly reject a parent in the absence of verified abuse, neglect or markedly deficient parenting skills—which should never be assumed based on the child’s self-reporting—one of the first thoughts should be that the other parent is an alienator. Moreover, one should never assume that, because a child has rejected a parent, the parent must have done something to warrant it.
Having observed thousands of genuinely-abused children during a period of 24 years, I have concluded that a child’s innate desire to have a relationship with his or her parents is one of the most powerful of human instincts, surpassed only by the instinct for survival and the instinct to protect ones young; among normal children, in the absence of an alienating influence, that instinct is seldom suppressed because a parent exhibits relatively minor flaws, deficiencies, or idiosyncrasies.
I get a stream of complaints about “parental alienation” in Connecticut, the attempt by one parent to minimize or eliminate the other parent’s role with the children. Every year, two or three of these cases come to my attention. Clearly, Connecticut has a problem with parental splitting or even alienating behavior.
The case of Tauck v. Tauck provides court evidence of splitting behavior. Court records show that in 2005 allegations of child molestation were filed against the father; in addition, it was claimed that he had downloaded child pornography onto his laptop computer. During the trial, it was found by Judge Abery-Wetstone that Mr. Tauck could not have downloaded the images because he was out of the country, and the child molestation charges were entirely unsubstantiated.
The damage to children from splitting or alienating behavior is enormous. They are being denied a relationship with their parent. Studies have shown that children without one parent are at much greater risk of behavioral problems, poor school performance and incarceration.
Connecticut judges, DCF, family relations officials need to do a better job of recognizing signs of splitting and alienation. These include:
The aggressive parent fails to encourage the child to have a
relationship with the other parent. Failure to actively promote this important relationship in the child’s life is often the first indication of destructive splitting behavior to follow.
A parent penalizes the child for spending time with the other parent.
A parent refuses to allow the child to spend time with the other parent.
A child who previously had a positive relationship with a parent refuses further contact.
One parent cuts off direct contact between a child and the other parent. Phone calls, letters and emails are unanswered.
Protective orders are being used as a tool to prevent visitation.
Judges and other professionals need to make it clear not only at the outset but repeatedly throughout the proceedings that such behavior will not be tolerated. More so, they should question each party as to how they intend to assure the other parent has an equal role in their children’s lives.
Post your experiences with splitting or alienating behavior here. We are particularly interested in hearing from adults who experienced this as children.