custody studies shared parenting research benefits of joint custody
The URL for this webpage is http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/braver.html
RELOCATION OF CHILDREN AFTER DIVORCE
AND CHILDREN'S BEST INTERESTS:
NEW EVIDENCE AND LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS
Sanford L. Braver and colleagues Ira
M. Ellman and William V. Fabricius released a study (June 25,
2003) purporting to examine* the effects on children whose parents move
after divorce. Braver's write-up of his findings originally could be found at
The article commences with a lengthy and inaccurate legal argument and misleading political
commentary. The study write-up and press releases
were timed to move public opinion in anticipation of the California Supreme
Court's 2003 decision in the LaMusga case. Father's rights
groups (pushing joint custody to minimize their financial obligations)
and lawyers and psychologists (who make money diddling around with people's
lives in never-ending "therapeutic jurisprudence") heralded the case as a "revisitation of Burgess." The study was badly
conceived and poorly done, but worse than that: Braver, Ellman and Fabricius
blatantly misrepresented their findings.
Here are the findings from the study.
(*Caution that they do not reflect different family issues precipitating
the divorce or move away, and so really are correlations only.)
WHO WAS STUDIED:
Braver et al. compared the characteristics of a bunch of Arizona undergrad
psychology students from divorced families, divided up into groups in which
post-divorce: (1) neither parent moved, (2) mother moved away with kids,
(3) mother moved, leaving kids with father, (4) father moved with kids,
and (5) father moved, leaving kids with mother.
HOW THEY WERE STUDIED:
The students filled out questionnaires.
AND EMOTIONAL WELL-ADJUSTMENT: The
most well-adjusted group in this category were children who remained with
their mothers whose fathers moved away.
They were better adjusted than children from divorced families where neither
parent moved, albeit marginally so. Children who moved with their fathers,
or who remained behind with their fathers scored significantly lower on
personal and emotional well adjustment than children who remained in the
custody of their mothers, regardless of whether the mother moved or not.
LIFE SATISFACTION: Children in the custody of their fathers
scored lowest on general life satisfaction. Children of divorce whose fathers
moved away and left them with their mothers were the most satisfied,
marginally more satisfied than children from divorced families in which
neither parent moved, and significantly more satisfied than children who
either moved or remained behind with their fathers.
Children who moved with their fathers, or who remained behind in the
custody of their fathers had significantly more hostility than children
in families in which neither divorced parent moved, or who either moved
with their mothers or remained behind with their mothers. Children
who moved with their mothers showed less hostility than children who remained
behind with their mothers (i.e. whose fathers moved away), but children
who remained behind with their mothers whose fathers moved away, while
a little more hostile, also were a little more well-adjusted and satisfied
INNER TURMOIL AND DISTRESS FROM
THE DIVORCE: Children from the group
in which neither parent moved had the least inner turmoil and distress
from the divorce itself. However,
the group of children who moved with their mothers or stayed with their
mothers when their father moved still had less inner turmoil and distress
than children who either moved with their fathers or stayed behind with
their fathers when their mothers moved. (It is unclear whether this factor
was related to moving per se, or more difficult divorce circumstances,
which in turn precipitated a move. Either way, it is uncorrelated with
the children's overall well-adjustedness and life satisfaction.)
PARENT AS "SUPPORTIVE": Children across all categories
tended to perceive the parent they lived with as more supportive. However,
in general over all categories, children had a higher opinion of their
HEALTH": Children who moved away with
their fathers reported significantly lower "global health" than
children whose parents did not move, and also lower health than the remaining
which otherwise had no significant differences among them, but did report
somewhat lower health than the group whose parents did not move.
OF PARENTS TO COLLEGE: Among the moving categories, children
who remained behind with their fathers received significantly less college
assistance than did children who remained behind with their mothers (the
second most supportive category), and children who moved with their fathers
(the least supportive category) received significantly less college assistance
than did children who moved with their mothers. Children whose parents
did not move received significantly more financial assistance for college
than children whose parents moved with or without them. (While actually
relatively unimportant compared with things like a child's well-adjustedness
overall, and probably most easily remedied by policies that would target
this issue with particularity -- like more and better government funding
for education for all children -- this is the finding Braver et al. and
the anti-moveaway crowd are touting the most, and it's essentially echoed
in the odd category immediately below.)
OVER COLLEGE EXPENSES: This category mirrored the actual contributions
of parents to children's college expenses, as we might have guessed.
A few other areas of well-adjustedness
were measured, with no important differences in and among the different
groups of undergraduate college students taking an introductory psychology
class (e.g. more substance abuse among children who live with their fathers,
although we already knew that), and Braver hasn't
reported on how these children of divorce measure up vis a vis children
from non-divorced families. The study also tells us nothing about children
who don't attend college or children who choose to take something other
than intoductory psych for their basic degree requirements.
WANT RESEARCH AND CITATIONS?
Joint Custody Studies: Debunked, liz
Custody -- the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions, liz
Myths and Facts about
Fatherhood: What the Research REALLY Says
Myths and Facts about
Motherhood: What the Research REALLY Says
And... Why is this Advocate of Calling
it "Adult-Child Sex" So Interested in Touting Joint Custody?
liz debunks Bauserman's "Meta-analysis."
by Trish Wilson on this new study and Bauserman
the Experts Say: A Review of the Scholarly Research
on Post-Divorce Parenting and Child Well-being.
Blame and Simplistic Solutions: DC's Joint Custody Presumption, by
Margaret Martin Barry --
Scholarly article by law professor discusses what's wrong with a statute
providing for a presumption of joint custody
Paradigms Collide: Protecting Battered Parents and Their Children in the
Family Court System, by Clare Dalton, 37 Fam. & Conciliation
Courts Rev. 273 (1999)
Dore, Esq. on "friendly parent" provisions
101 for Attorneys: Implications for Infant Placement Decisions, by
Eleanor Willemsen and Kristen Marcel
Custody: Implications for Women, by Renee Leff
on the internet at http://www.pgi.edu/pdf/1995journal.pdf
the Batterer in Visitation and Custody Disputes, by R. Lundy Bancroft.
abuse may be reported for the first time at the time of a separation or
divorce; critique of Janet Johnston's categories of batterer; more.
Violence in Custody and Access Disputes, Recommendations for Reform,
Nicholas M.C. Bala et al.
-- Scholarly article by Status of Women Canada Policy Research Fund (1998)
Psychological Effects of Relocation for Children of Divorce, by
Marion Gindes, Ph.D., AAML Journal, Vol. 15 (1998), pp. 119
the Father's Rights movement really looks like, liz
the "Responsible Fatherhood" movement really is about, liz
Carol S. Bruch,
Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: GETTING IT WRONG IN CHILD CUSTODY CASES
of other articles (to be supplemented):
Brinig, Margaret F.,
and Child Custody Under Chapter Two of the American Law Institute's
Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution." 8
Duke J. of Gender L. & Pol'y 301 (Spring/Summer 2001).
Jennifer L.,"Separation Assault in the Context of Postdivorce Parenting:
An Integrative Review of the Literature." Violence Against Women
8.5 (May 2002): 597-625. Author discusses the negative implications of
friendly parent provisions for abused women.
Sheila J., Against Joint Custody: A General Dissent to the General Bullmoose
Theory. Family and Conciliation Courts Review (1989), 27 (2) 37-45
Richard, The Primary Caretaker Parent Rule: Child Custody and the Dynamics
of Greed, 3 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 168 (1984)
Jana B. & William L. Reynolds, A Dissent on Joint Custody, 47 Md. L.
Rev. 497 (1988). The primary caretaker preference eliminates much of
the bickering and confusion inherent in custody determinations by awarding
custody to the parent who has been most responsible for raising the child.
Kathleen, "Battered Women and Their Children: Lessons from One Woman's
Story," Symposium: Domestic Violence and the Health Care System.
35 Hous. L. Rev. 29 (1998).