by Robert Bauserman, entitled Child Adjustment in
Joint-Custody Versus Sole-Custody Arrangements: A Meta-Analytic Review,
is purported to be the last word on the benefits of joint custody
versus sole custody (it isn't, really, but that's how it's being touted.)
Bauserman is a psychologist with the Maryland AIDS Administration/Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene.
to the implications of the most recent and credible research
which indicates that joint custody either is problematic or offers no benefits
on balance for children or their families, Bauserman has managed to "meta-analyze"
selected studies on custody and come to what superficially appears to be
the opposite conclusion.
His article opens
(emphasis added -- speculations aren't findings, and qualifier words like
"can be" and "some" can be added to almost any write-up
to slant or highlight fact findings, which in turn get simplified into
less qualified soundbites in the media):
author meta-analyzed studies comparing child adjustment in joint physical
or joint legal custody with sole-custody settings, including comparisons
with paternal custody and intact families where possible. Children in joint
physical or legal custody were better adjusted than children in sole-custody
settings, but no different from those in intact families. More positive
adjustment of joint-custody children held for separate comparisons of general
adjustment, family relationships, self-esteem, emotional and behavioral
adjustment, and divorce-specific adjustment. Joint-custody parents reported
less current and past conflict than did sole-custody parents, but this
did not explain the better adjustment of joint-custody children. The results
are consistent with the hypothesis that joint custody can be advantageous
for children in some cases, possibly by facilitating ongoing
positive involvement with both parents.
The article commences
with what is essentially a summary of political arguments pro and con pertaining
to custody, and uses the same kind of speculative misrepresentations of
the research findings that are characteristic of the highly agenda'd "father-absence"
and pro-joint-custody researchers. A number of studies are cited which
purportedly evidence benefits flowing from joint custody, but which on
closer inspection, in the main do no such thing. For example, Bauserman
writes (emphasis added):
joint custody (and joint physical custody in particular) is relevant to
many of the issues raised by Buchanan et al. (1996), Amato and Gilbreth
(1999), Hetherington et al. (1998), and McLanahan (1999). For example,
ongoing and frequent access to both parents may mitigate potential
effects of parental absence as seen in sole-custody households...
Bauserman then discusses
his methodology. In order to do his meta-analysis, he had to exclude all
studies that were only qualitative, as well as studies that did not provide
a comparison between sole and joint custody households. His requirement
for studies with a statistical comparison of arbitrary measures of child
well-being, however, ended up excluding some large and credible qualitative
studies, such as Wallerstein's, and including early and small bean-counting-type
studies, including unpublished studies, that were flawed based on a variety
of criteria. (For a discussion of the specious political arguments and
the problems inherent in some of these studies, see those-jointcustody-studies.html)
In all, Bauserman
managed to come up with only 33 studies total for inclusion in his meta-analysis,
and of those, a whopping 22 were small, unpublished studies, a super-whopping
21 of these being the often overly-simplistic and inexperienced research
of doctoral students. All in all, it was difficult to select usable studies,
because of the confounding in many of the studies of joint physical and
joint legal custody, as well as variations in items measured by the different
studies, as well as that many of the early studies failed to isolate out
other confounding factors (such as conflict.) But Bauserman did manage
to weight his meta-analysis with a slew of early, flawed, studies of the
kind that have been circulating for years ad nauseum on the internet
in father's rights groups as "supporting joint custody," and
which have been superseded by later, more authoritative work.
The selected studies,
from as early as 1982 through 1999, contained a total of 1846 sole custody
children (an average of only 55 children per study) and 814 jont custody
children (fewer than 25 children per study). Over one-third were studies
that used "convenience samples" (not random samples.) The remainder
were mostly from court and school samples (also arguably not an objective
broad-based sampling.) Only one was a national sample, and this was research
by telephone survey (Donnelly & Finkelhor, 1992), and while Janet Johnston's
clinical sample was included, it was discounted by Bauserman (it clearly
contra-indicated joint custody) as, apparently, unreliable because of a
selection bias for conflict. (We note he did not make the corrollary comment
specifically noting the particular many studies that had groups of voluntary
self-selected joint custodians.) The only included national study (discounted
by Bauserman post-meta-analysis as not reliable and limited in its questions)
and sole other clinical-group study also did not weigh on the side of joint
those studies that did examine conflict, joint-custody couples reported
less conflict at the time of separation or divorce. This is consistent
with the argument that joint-custody couples are self-selected for low
conflict and that better adjustment for their children may reflect this
lack of conflict; parental conflict remains an important confound in research
comparing adjustment in different custody settings.
One of the methods
Bauserman used to ascertain "current conflict" was the much-discredited
"Conflict Tactics Scale."
of current conflict were coded from 14 studies and included such measures
as the Straus Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979); the O'LearyPorter
Overt Hostility Scale (B. Porter & O'Leary, 1980); Ahrons's scales
for various dimensions of parental conflict, communication, and support
(Ahrons, 1979, 1981, 1983); and various author-created items or scales
for parents (and sometimes children) to report on such constructs as discord,
hostility, cooperation, and conflict over custody or other issues.
The Conflict Tactics
Scale has been criticized by domestic violence scholars as considerably
gender-biased, and is deeply flawed as an indicator of divorce conflict
because it fails to consider entrenched issue-conflict and emotional hostilities
(e.g. it focuses on things like who pushed who where, without regard to
context.) In addition, there is no indication that arbitrary author-designed
scales created by doctoral students in the course of their minor and highly
limited little studies would have any transportable measurement validity.
Among the data Bauserman
found important to code for analysis of those studies which he did find
to be suitable for inclusion in his meta-analysis, was the sex of the first-named
author of the study. Bauserman reported that 26, possibly 27, of the 33
studies were by women (he wasn't sure of one ambiguous name and apparently
did not discuss his meta-analysis with the studies' authors.)
Given that only 5
of the studies "allowed codable data" on past conflict, it seems
rather fortuitous and remarkable that 8 of the 33 studies, or nearly a
fourth of those selected by Bauserman, included studiable sole custody
paternal groups -- a demographic of relatively meager size. Note Bauserman's
rather clever backhanded way of touting sole father-custody as perhaps
equal to joint custody which in turn is -- according to Bauserman's meta-analysis
and notwithstanding all those problems divorced children ostensibly have
-- equivalent to an intact family.
effect size indicating better adjustment of joint-custody versus paternal
custody children was statistically nonsignificant, failing to support the
hypothesis of better adjustment for joint-custody children. However, the
effect was almost the same in magnitude as the effect size favoring joint
over maternal/sole custody. With only 8 studies for the joint versus paternal
comparison, but 33 for the broader joint-versus sole-custody comparison,
lack of statistical power may have been a problem. Given the relatively
small magnitude of the apparent effect size, if joint-custody and paternal
custody children really do differ in adjustment, more studies with larger
samples may be needed to detect the effect at the level of statistical
significance. As hypothesized, joint custody and intact family children
did not differ in adjustment...
(It's those darn
mothers; children do just fine whenever we can limit maternal parenting!)
One would think that Bauserman must have realized that he included skewed
amicable self-selected joint-custody groups in his meta-analysis because
he observed that "mothers appear just as likely as other evaluators
to perceive joint custody as beneficial to their children's adjustment."
But he seems to be trying to avoid the appearance of academic dishonesty
by professing surprise, and opting instead for showing himself to be either
deliberately or unconsciously gender-biased (I vote for the former, given
that he found it important to code the sex of the -- admittedly- going-
to- be- agenda'd ? -- researchers):
ratings by mothers are notable because mothers might perceive joint custody
as a loss of expected control as primary custodians and be less likely
to perceive children as benefiting. Some authors have claimed that mothers
are the primary "losers" in joint-custody situations...
this comment in the middle of his paper (emphasis added):
children showed better adjustment in parental relations and spent significant
amounts of time with the father, allowing more opportunity for authoritative
parenting. The findings for joint legal custody samples indicate that children
do not actually need to be in joint physical custody to show better adjustment,
but it is important to note that joint legal custody children typically
spent a substantial amount of time with the father as well. Importantly,
a causal role for joint custody cannot be demonstrated because of the
correlational nature of all research in this area.
I read this as "the
children who were in joint legal and joint physical custody (no difference)
got along better with and spent more time with their fathers. The reasons
for this are unknown but they are speculated to be attributable to 'authoritative
parenting' (we are to assume by the father.)" Or perhaps unique circumstances
indicate that's why these particular families chose the joint custody experiment
in the first place. (Again, for a discussion of the flawed assumptions,
conclusions and other problems inherent in some of these early studies,
generally, Bauserman, in separate places in his paper, notes inconsistently:
bias cannot be ruled out. Parents who have better relationships prior to,
or during, the divorce process may self-select into joint custody, such
that quality of parental relationship is confounded with custody status.
The lower level of conflict in joint-custody families, relative to sole-custody
families, is consistent with this alternative hypothesis.
and (emphasis added):
is important to recognize that the findings reported here do not demonstrate
a causal relationship between joint custody and better child adjustment.
However, the research reviewed here does not support claims by critics
of joint custody that joint-custody children are likely to be exposed to
more conflict or to be at greater risk of adjustment problems due to having
to adjust to two households or feeling "torn" between parents...
It is important to recognize that the results clearly do not support joint
custody as preferable to, or even equal to, sole custody in all situations.
that we have looked at his article, let's look at who Robert Bauserman
is. I don't know him personally, but I do know that his expertise has been
touted in a recent book by Judith
Levine, entitled Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children
From Sex," which is being advertised by its publisher, University
of Minnesota Press, as challenging widespread anxieties about pedophilia.
Levine praises a "controversial" study which came out several
years ago, and referred to in shorthand as "The Rind Study."
You may have heard of it, and remembered that it was authored by a guy
named "Rind" and a couple of other guys whose names you don't
recall offhand. (Hint: one of them was named "Bauserman.")
Mark O'Keefe, Newhouse
News Service, writes in an article published March 26, 2002 (http://www.startribune.com/stories/384/2126968.html):
between adults and children has been a societal taboo so strong that it's
considered one of our few unquestioned moral principles. But arguments
have emerged in academic journals, books and online that at least some
such sex should be acceptable, especially when children consent to it.
making the case aren't just fringe groups, such as the North American Man-Boy
Love Association, but a handful of academics at mainstream universities.
of this school of thought stress that they don't condone coercing children
into sex, and that they are not pro-pedophilia, as the term is commonly
understood. But several contend that minors are capable of agreeing to
and even initiating sex with adults.
academics seek to change the language, moving away from "pedophilia,"
which often evokes a charged negative response.... In its place would be
more neutral terms such as "intergenerational sex" or "adult-child
are the last bastion of the old sexual morality," wrote one of the
trailblazers for this view, Harris Mirkin, an associate professor of political
science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City...
is not alone in questioning whether children are harmed by sexual contact
with adults. The March 2002 American Psychologist devotes its entire
issue to the ongoing fallout of a journal article that did just that.
piece, in the July 1998 issue of Psychological Bulletin, was written
by Bruce Rind, then an assistant professor of psychology at Temple University;
Robert Bauserman, a lecturer then with the department of psychology
at the University of Michigan; and Philip Tromovitch, then pursuing a doctorate
at the University of Pennsylvania.
trio reviewed 59 studies of college students who, as children, had sexual
interaction with significantly older people or were coerced into sexual
activity with someone of their own age. They concluded that negative effects
"were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted
much less negatively than women." It recommended that a child's "willing
encounter with positive reactions" be called "adult-child sex"
instead of "abuse."
Isn't that special.
The Rind Study has
been roundly criticized, not only for its ridiculous conclusions (if 59
college students who had broken legs as children suffered no apparent ill
effects as adults, would that make it okay to break children's legs), but
also for, among other things, misrepresentation of the research. The authors
of "Sex With Children: Comment on Rind, Tromobitch, and Bauserman"
(1998) stated that Rind, Bauserman and Tromovitch misrepresented the original
data cited in the sex abuse meta-analysis:
Rind, P. Tromovitch, and R. Bauserman (1998) reported a meta-analysis of
the relation between sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence and psychological
functioning among college students. Several aspects of their work have
proven to be highly controversial, including their assertion that the relation
between child sexual abuse and adjustment is quite small and their questioning
of whether child sexual abuse should be labeled abuse in scientific inquiry.
In this commentary, the authors summarize the controversy that has ensued,
place it in a historical context, discuss the limitations of B. Rind et
al.'s findings, and critique the manner in which those findings are presented.
The authors also argue for the appropriateness of the term abuse and for
scientific terminology that reflects rather than contradicts consensual
To conclude our discussion
of the joint custody article written by Robert Bauserman, one of the pro-"child-sex"
trio of minor academics referred to above, we note that the article was
written under the direction and auspices of...
research was not done as part of official duties with the Maryland Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene or under its auspices. Correspondence concerning
this article should be addressed to Robert Bauserman, AIDS Administration/Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene, 500 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland
21202. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Journal of Family Psychology
Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2002, Vol.
16, No. 1, 91102.
on his own initiative. Isn't it nice that, inter alia, he also
is interested in family law custody issues.
following factors HAVE been consistently related to positive child adjustment
1. positive custodial parent adjustment, which is associated
with effective parenting;
2. positive relationship
between custodial parent and child;
3. low level of conflict between parents.
findings regarding the relationship between child adjustment and contact
with the noncustodial parent are inconsistent and do not lend themselves
to a general conclusion.
Gindes, Marion. The Psychological Effects
of Relocation for Children of Divorce, AAML Journal, Vol. 15 (1998), pp.
three-quarters of parenting plans in Washington State specified joint decision-making,
joint decision-making did not work well, and can promote conflict.
(Lye & Wechsler, 2000) In fact, Dunne et al. (2000) found that parental
conflict appeared to rise under the new law.
apparently benign idea of shared parenting has achieved a level of common
sense knowledge that is contradicted by the social science research in
shows that continuing contact with each parent is only one factor associated
with positive outcomes for children of divorce. Some researchers have called
into question the assumption that maintenance of a relationship with an
access father is the most important factor in positive outcomes for children."
Eillis, J.W., "Caught in the middle: Protecting the children of high
conflict divorce," (1996) N.Y.U. Review of Legal Social Change 22,
259-61; Silverstein, L. B. Auerbach, C.F., "Deconstructing the Essential
Father," 54:6 American Psychologist 397 (1999); quoted in Ad Hoc
Child Custody and Access Research Committee, May 28, 2001, http://www.ywca.ca/articles/familylawfacts.htm
WANT MORE RESEARCH
AND CITATIONS? SEE:
Custody -- the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions, liz
Joint Custody Studies -- Debunked, liz
Myths and Facts about
Fatherhood: What the Research REALLY Says
Myths and Facts about
Motherhood: What the Research REALLY Says
"Co-authors Rind and Bauserman
are members of the Paidika: Journal of Paedophilia cadre... Bauserman
wrote an article for the Summer 1989 issue legitimizing sex with children.
A similar article by Rind appeared in the Winter 1995 issue. Their co-authored
article entitled "Adult-Nonadult Sexual Interactions" was promoted
in that publication's Winter 1995 issue." -- Judith Reisman, Ph.D.