Oregon’s homophobic custody lobby

Is Oregon on the cusp on lurching into Homo~phobia ?

The history and importance of civil rights in the Americas seems to have gone unnoticed in Oregon. Its state officials are on the cusp of being seduced by a crack-pot set of notions peddled by snake oil medicine salesmen.

McIntosh and Pruett are the snake oil medicine men and their cure-all tonic, now being sold at Oregon’s family courts website, is something called ‘CODIT’. Their brand of snake oil would see a framework of fences surrounding every separated father wanting to be a part of his child’s early years.

Custody is always a hot button issue, so raising the spectre of an irrational fear of men (homo-phobia) and promoting it as a legitimate and justified fear only muddies the waters.

 CODIT puts back the evolution of fathers’ rights and of equality between the sexes to the 1950s and beyond. CODIT is the acronym forCharting Overnight Decisions for Infants and Toddlers” – a pseudo-science if ever there was one, and promoted by aspiring rather than experienced social scientists. Its advocates (McIntosh & Marsha Pruett, no surprise there), who insist it is based on research, backed by evidence, and grounded in good science (yes, of course, it is). The fact that no one else (certainly no one of any of repute), is willing to join them says nothing, does it ?

The incongruity is not lost on voters. At the exact time Bernie Sanders is reminding the young electorate of their forefathers struggle for emancipation, universal health care and equality, Oregon’s state court officials are blithely bent on dragging the state, kicking and screaming if needs be, into an era where mothers will once again have the monopoly of child care.

Here we are’, says Bernie to his audience, ‘celebrating and embracing equality for same-sex couples’ – and no one flinches. But mention fathers wanting equality and the shuttered minds of old style thinking take centre stage.

What are state officials supposed to do if the main recommendation and the only message they hear from McIntosh & Pruett’s presentation is to exercise “Caution” against overnighting (Item No. 6… p 20).

Those state officials who formed Oregon’s State Family Law Advisory Committee (SFLAC) and met on June 5, 2015 were:

  • Paula Brownhill: William J. Howe III; Stephen Adams; Hon. David Brewer; Colleen Carter-Cox; Ryan Carty; Dr. Adam Furchner; Laurie Hart; Linda Hukari; Lauren MacNeill; Kate Cooper; Maureen McKnight; Rebecca Orf; Keith Raines; Richardson; and Robin Selig.

For some reason, better known perhaps to God than the public, Messer’s McIntosh & Pruett want separated fathers to jump through hoops that they have unbiasedly (?) devised before they can share (or even think about sharing) in the raising of their own children. The focus is children aged under 3, and especially 0 – 12 months old, which Pruett, McIntosh, & Kelly see, in their joint papers of 2013 and 2014, as particularly vulnerable to every fathers’ evil machinations (see ‘Parental separation and overnight care of young children’, Part I & II, McIntosh, Pruett & Kelly, 2014). It remains unclear whether Kelly, who is named as a joint author in the Oregon presentation is even aware of her name being used in this joint enterprise since she has recently retired and her past record in such matters is at variance with the discriminatory stance adopted by McIntosh. Someone may soon have to draw her attention to this development and allow her to disavow any connection.

Re-cycling more psycho-babble

However, Messer’s McIntosh, Pruett, have machinations of their own. Since 2011 when they upset their profession by their rather slapdash research, they have majored on the 0 years to 3 year old child. Their 2014 paper echoed the same theme. However, in a version published in April 2014 issue of the Family Court Review they quietly convert the 3 year old, i.e. 36 months, boundary into 48 months on the pretext that this is “In line with the available research specific to separated parents and overnight care” which, of course, is an untruth.

It is untrue because there is no credible empirical data showing that overnight / sleepovers have a negative impact on 48 month old children – or 36 month old children for that matter.

The justification for their approach to fathers is one of pretending to safeguard children’s safety and best interests. The only problem with their new ‘systemised’ approach is that it is undecipherable to the uninitiated – which, of course, makes it a potential cash cow if the programme can be sold to enough municipalities. And indeed McIntosh is already selling it through her counselling centre’s website as one of her on-line courses.

The duo frame the dilemma faced as an “either or” issue between the research backing attachment theory and that research backing shared parenting. There is no evidence in anyone else’s writings of pitting these two factors against each other and by claiming there are points where the “two strands of development are  . . .  overlapping and inextricably related” is as protective as a fig leaf. It deflects from the real issue which is, “Should infants have overnight stays with their Dad or not (since the implied assumption is that this would interfere with attachment to Mom) ?

Their plans need to face public scrutiny – and the scrutiny of their peers who need to critique this CODIT which has never been peer approved – rather than be confined to a sales pitch behind closed doors. Below is how they see their method working through layers called ‘Levels’ and where each Level has ‘Gateways’ and where each Gateway has obstructing ‘factors’ to be taken into account:-

pruett1The hoops are euphemistically termed “Gateway Factors”. Aspirant practitioners of their newly invented methods will have to pay the Cartel to be trained in how to read and implement the snake oil psycho-babble. This is vital because anywhere beyond Gateway Factor 1 and 2 and the would-be practitioner would have to know how to recognise not only whether “The child has significant developmental or medical needs” but what is defined as such by their authors.

Even were we to focus merely on Factor 1 and 2 the regime is so incestuous in its supporting evidence that one is left at a loss to explain or rationalise the “absent”, “emerging” or “present” columns (see above).

How many times have we experienced a wonderfully thought out system that work well with skilled staff and brings real benefits only for it to fall apart when rolled out and staff skill levels fall ? This is not wonderfully thought out, nor is it an enviable or reliable system. Manifestly, this will have to be operated by those in social services who are expected to be competent in medical diagnosis and psychological matters. That’s as tall order.

It self-evident that McIntosh & Pruett are instead relying on a quasi-tick box approach, with coloured coding (to help the impaired, one wonders ?).

The grid from the latter paper has been adapted here for easier use, and a chart has been added, to assist considerations.

Their prime motives are betrayed from the sub-text which makes it plain that this whole regime is designed for that 5% of parents who are violent or are irreconcilable when it asks:


The unvarnished truth is that this is the hackneyed ploy to gum up the works used every time by alleged ‘reformers’ seeking to reform matters backwards. Their modus operandi is, let’s not think of the 95% or the 97% who are ‘good enough parents’, lets ignore that the immaculate can exist, and let’s instead drag everyone down to the lowest denominator and judge everyone on that basis.

Touch down and lock out

McIntosh & Pruett trumpet their CODIT regime as “  . .  . a simple way to consider key questions that helpfully inform decisions about overnight care for very young children (0-3 years) after parental separation.” However, this seems to infer some de-skilling and making it too simple implies untrained staff are about to be let loose.

It’s true that in the business world one always endeavours to make things, systems, and machinery “idiot-proof” but there are always plenty of candidates to thwart the sharpest and most experienced minds.

In contrast to these author-beginners – newbies – those in the commercial world have a mass of experience behind them (that’s why they’re paid the big bucks). Not only that but they stand to be sued if they get it wrong. One suspects McIntosh & Pruett cannot lay claim to 20 years of inventing and developing such “idiot-proof” machinery and have no concept of how ruinous strict liability can be.

Almost casually Pruett & McIntosh, claim that CODIT “. . . is based on a review of current developmental science” vis-a-vis a consensus about overnight decisions. The only problem is that it’s a consensus of two.  Joan Kelly who retired before McIntosh and Pruett created and released CODIT has written many articles on her own that would not support CODIT’s  premise or procedures. CODIT is not based on the real consensus of the Warshak paper which reflects the views of 110 world respected experts or on reviews of the research by other renown social scientists such as Michael Lamb.

The underlying criteria of the trio is pressing to achieve is a lock-out of other opinions which they excuse as “the need to achieve a coherent view.” If issues are as unresolved as they have made out elsewhere in their published work then there is no need to be a coherent view until those issues are unresolved (and having such little data doesn’t help). The one redeeming trait is that they do at least recognise that in the meantime decision made in family law carry significant and potentially enduring consequences for young children and their parents (where have they been for 30 years ?).

Elastic evidence

They would like us to believe that there is ‘controversy’ surrounding overnight stays for young children and that this in part stems from adherence to some ‘theoretical position’.  But the only ones seeking a controversy are the authors since they are finding their position difficult to sustain.

Infants prefer, the authors assert with little credible backing, proximity to one parent or the other at different ages, particularly in their first 18 months. They never mention ‘mothers’ but we all know that is what they mean. To back this up that cite only two studies and we are asked to accept this as established fact in all of the empirical studies on attachment.

Attachment theory is nothing if it is not about bonding with parents and as a result much emphasis is placed on “frequent” separations and “repeated” separations. These may appear to be one and the same but they can mean very different beasts in academia. Going to work in the morning a fathers might be said to be “frequently” separated whereas a mother or child expecting a fathers to return routinely but who does not, might be ‘repeatedly’ let down in separation terms. However, “frequent” and “repeated” are never defined. This goes to the heart of the debate – who is in charge of determining that one overnight stay with Dad a week is “frequent”? If the concern is the impact on the baby’s sense of security with the main care-givers due to frequent changes doesn’t this assume the baby is a conscious sentient being, capable of independent thought, which surely contradicts the attachment theory of utter dependency ?

From the attachment perspective, “frequent” separation refers to repeated absences occurring regularly, and concern focuses on the impact of frequent change on the baby’s security with main care-givers.

Return of the Red necks

Conveniently forgotten in their arrival at this rickety conclusion about sleeping over at a father’s home is the CDC data showing 99% of all child homicides in the 0 -12 month category as actually mother inflicted. Given this indisputable fact, why are mothers not forced by CODIT to face the hoops rather than fathers ?

The answer is simple; Messer’s McIntosh & Pruett are unreformed 1970 feminists. They want female privilege, not equality. They represent a faction of feminism that embraces 19th century Victorian values. They are as unreconstructed as any misogynistic redneck – the only trouble with this is that they have had enough experience in the field to get a literal or figurative ‘red neck’.

Immaturity wafts through their document. They want their questions to be asked and assessed for each infant-parent relationship. No one has told them yet that this is not even possible with divorces where the number of persons involved is 50% less (and often both parties agree to a separation). So what realistic hope have McIntosh & Pruett to get this project over the line ?

It is a false premise to believe that there is somehow “ . . . an implicit assumption that one parent’s gain is the other parent’s loss, and that the baby either wins or loses, as well.” Adopting attachment theory tactics will ensure one parent will always be the loser. But we should not exclusively focus on this but on the arguments made in everything one reads which are not about a simply parent’s gain or loss but about the infants’ losses/gains.

McIntosh & Pruett believe – and probably quite sincerely – that infants in the “most frequent” overnight group (one or more nights per week) were more irritable than the “less than weekly.” However, they fail to mention that those same children were no more irritable than infants from intact families – so why are the reporting their own findings in this erroneous way ?  The data did not show overnighting infants were very irritable or difficult babies. Doubtful claims are also made that:

  • “ . . .  children aged 2-3 years in the “most overnights” group (35% or more overnights between their parents), showed significantly lower persistence in play and learning than those in either of the lower contact groups, and more problematic behaviours.”

This ‘result’ was reached using a subjective “assessment” of the children’s readiness to learn language. This was another instance of the authors misleading the reader. They gave the impression that they were having “learning problems” when they were not. It was in fact a 5 item test that did not assess how easily distracted they were when playing by themselves, etc. and their scores were perfectly in the normal range. No mention is made that the frequently overnighting 3 year olds were actually better off when they were five – they had fewer behavioural problems.

Closer analysis finds them shooting themselves in the foot. Citing Tornello, Emery, Rowen, Potter, Ocker & Xu (2013), they claim data in the study analysed attachment and childhood adjustment data provided by mothers from a separated families sample of 1,023 one-year-olds and 1,547 three-year-olds who had contact with both parents. Large numbers look impressive but sadly for McIntosh & Pruett data came from only 51 mothers whose infants were “frequently” overnighting – and most of those infants were living with their father for more than half of the time.

Further analysis finds the claims by McIntosh et al (2010 & 2013) concerning a randomised general population database and Children aged 2-3 years in the “most overnights” group to be suspect. Ironically the problematic behaviours identified and referred to were only towards their mothers – and were the same behaviours reported by 50% of the 4,000 mothers in the

Their claim is therefore dangerously misleading and they failed to mention any of the far more serious limitations of this study – lack of validity for most of the measures, 60 – 90% of parents a). never-married or, b). cohabitees, and there was no clear link between overnighting on 5 of the 6 measures – only 11 infants who overnighted more than 5 nights a month etc.  There was no measurement of attachment, questionable measures of “emotional regulation” and having only 14 – 20 infants in the occasional overnights group is no where large enough to draw any worthwhile conclusions.

Depending as they did on much of the ‘Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study’ their claim that the data was representative of the population of 20 major inner US cities, is true nu once again dangerously misleading. McIntosh & Pruett concede that their sample consists of predominantly black, unmarried, low income mothers they are not “typical.” Instead, they represent the poor, minority population in those studies – not the population of the entire city.

They also reveal that 41% of children moved to an overnight plan in the intervening year before the follow-up – this means there can be no way to reliably assess the impact of overnighting on the “unsettled behaviour.

As if looking for support, the authors claim that “some variables studied showed no group effects” but it has been pointed out by others, it is not some but ‘most’ variables studied showed no group effects. They then misuse the paper by Solomon and George (1999) claiming it is ‘consistent’ with theirs.

The instructions on how to complete the CODIT ‘profile’ (a ‘checklist’ to you and me but maybe they see themselves as FBI agents ?), is to ‘work through the 8 factors’ and for the questions in each factor assign a value. Operatives of the regime are advised to circle the answer that is currently true for this child and family, as defined as follows:

  • Present (continually present/established)
  • Emerging (sometimes present)
  • Absent (rarely or never present).

Only in the latter stages, and as a codicil, do the authors admit their regime is nowhere near close to being a diagnostic instrument and so fallible as to be discarded when put under pressure.

“The CODIT is not a diagnostic instrument. The profile should not be used as the sole basis for decisions, nor override the discretion of parents who jointly elect to follow other schedules.”

Should someone be found to somehow and miraculously have all the diverse specialism this regime demands then at the finale practitioners are advised:

oregon2They say a sucker punch is always unexpected and the one that always lays you out. In boxing, a sucker punch is one thrown outside of the formalised rules of engagement. Even though Messer McIntosh, Marsha Pruett & Joan Kelly work to a disgraceful agenda, they nonetheless operate within the thin framework of family courts.

Death and brain tumours can be occasioned by sucker punches, so the public in Oregon must be alerted in no small way to the proximity of potentially malignant opponents in their community.

Make no mistake the stakes are high. Should their regime not reach its goal then built-in to their programme of Gateway Factors and Key Factors is the backstop of as yet undefined Further Factors to be added later.

The last word has to go to the authors who write that some children had not seen their fathers regularly in the intervening year, and for a few they had no prior contact. In other words the researchers themselves concluded that there was no significant link between overnighting per se and attachment.




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