Taking the Purple path

Taking the Purple path

Based on an article by Marilyn Barr, Founder / Executive Director National Center on Shaken Baby (NCSBS), Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

As if the world was not already drowning in acronyms and intoxicated to the point of stupefaction with them, we now have a new one – the P.U.R.P.L.E. period.

However, this acronym might prove vital for fathers in the battle with the likes of McIntosh and Emery whose dogma is opposed to shared parenting and fatherly involvement in child rearing in any shape or form. Patience will reveal more as we go through the A, B, C, of it.

PurpleLeft: Marilyn Barr

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during an infant’s first 3 to 6 month of life. It is a condition that used to be described as “colic” which referred to a baby’s condition of being in discomfort without specifics, limited parameters or a definition.

When a baby is said to have “colic” it conveys, at first instance, the impression of an illness or a condition that is abnormal in some way. But this is no true. It is a natural ‘developmental’ stage in mammals. And while it may psychologically reassure worried parents when the doctor prescribes a ‘medicine’ it unfortunately plants the seed in their mind that this is indeed an illness, when it is not.

PurplePICThe most important thing to remember is that it is a transient condition and it is a “period” that is soon over. It cannot be emphasised enough that the word ‘period’ is important because it tells parents (and lawyers) that it is only temporary and will come to an end.

Why this is vital to you.

For some time past the advances made in shared parenting have encountered opposition from a rearguard that want to see the doctrine of ‘maternal attachment’ theory triumph over equality and parental rights. In other words they are a throw-back to the 1950s.

Foremost in this opposition are characters like Jennifer McIntosh and Robert Emery who have formed a vociferous and pernicious coterie of desperados.

So understanding the “Period of PURPLE”, i.e. when a baby is crying, will help counter the arguments of Messer’s McIntosh and Pruett’s ideology (see their CODIT sales pitch to influence care professionals “Charting Overnight Decisions for Infants and Toddlers” re: https://mensaid.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/23/ and Emery’s work URL ). A list of further reading around the subject and linkages between the bad guys, i.e. McIntosh, Pruett, Emery, Smyth etc., are contrasted with the good guys, e.g. Warshak, Nielsen, Lamb, Ludolph etc.

Just to clarify; McIntosh and Pruett created CODIT and have co-authored papers. They want to put distance between fathers and their children. McIntosh is linked to Emery because of their two studies Smyth, McIntosh, Emery, Howarth (2016). The aforesaid authors also want to put distance between fathers and their children. Samantha Tornello is linked to Emery through “Overnight Custody Arrangements, Attachment, and Adjustment among Very Young Children” (2013). Emery, McIntosh et al., 2013, 2012 (and 2011) plus Tornello et al., 2013, all share the same view point. So although Emery and the others are not directly linked to CODIT the thrust of their writing coincides with that of McIntosh and Pruett and so by implication the other authors share the same opinions as McIntosh. This joint enterprise in aided and abetted by close connections with the journal Family Court Review, the AFCC’s journal, and for which some act as editors or have had a beneficial capacity bestowed on them.

Someone who has probably undertaken more studies on infant crying and analysed the causes is Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician. It was he that came up with the phrase the Period of PURPLE Crying.

Crying is one of the ways to help a parent understand their baby’s life and needs. This is, it must be emphasised, now recognised as a normal developmental phase. That is why it is referred to as the ‘Period of PURPLE Crying’. This is not, we should hasten to add, because the baby turns purple while crying. Not a bit of it. It is that the acronym is intended to be meaningful and memorable for what parents and their babies are going through. It can reach a peak; it is unexpected; it resists soothing, etc. and so forth.

The linkage with Jennifer McIntosh and Marsha Pruett is that they argue that their CODIT checklist for overnighting that babies being “irritable” and not easily soothed especially at parental swop over times. This, they assert, is a sign of stress that should, indeed must, be considered in limiting the father’s overnighting time with babies and toddlers under 4 years of age. The effect is to negate the progress made universally of allowing fathers to spend more time with their children and reverting custody decisions to the hopeless position they were 10 years ago. This unsound message is being spread to child care professionals and court official (including judges) and whoever else will give them an audience.

Breast feeding animals

The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about 2 weeks of age and can continue until about 3 – 4 months of age. There are other common characteristics of this phase, or period, which are described in the above graphic of PURPLE. All babies go through this period. It is during this time that some babies can cry a lot and some far less, but they all go through it.

Scientists decided to look at different animal species to see if they go through this developmental stage. So far, all breast feeding animals tested do have a similar developmental stage of crying more in the first months of life as human babies do.

When babies are going through this period they display a resistance to soothing. Nothing appears to help. Even though certain soothing methods may help when the baby is simply fussy or crying, however, bouts of inconsolable crying are different. Then nothing seems to soothe them.

During this phase of a baby’s life they can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal.

Parents often think there must be something wrong or they would not be crying like this. However, even after a check-up from the doctor which shows the baby is healthy they still go home and cry for hours, night after night. As one dad might say:

  • “It was so discouraging, our baby giggles and seems fine during the day and almost like clockwork, he starts crying around 6 pm. He is growing and healthy, so why does he cry like this ?”

Often parents say their baby looks like he or she is in pain. They think they must be, or why would they cry so much? Babies who are going through this period can act as if they are in pain even when they are not.

McIntosh and Pruett react in this uniformed way and have decided that it validates McIntosh’s study, and that of Robert Emery and that of Bruce Smyth. The only trouble is that they are all cut from the same block and all share the same ideological opinions regarding attachment theory. They observe a baby apparently in distress and conclude they need to devise a checklist to measure it hence their CODIT checklist. They then look for the cause and alight on and the nearest one to hand (and in their view the most obvious), namely the child’s very recent visit with the father and the break in maternal attachment. It all makes perfect sense to them.



Further reading:

  1. ‘Why infants should not have ‘overnights’ with their Dad – Exactly what is the argument in favour of this?’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/60/
  2. ‘Robert Emery and Marsha Kline Pruett’ https://mensaid.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/22/
  3. ‘Emery calls a Crisis Committee’ (Researchers’ Roundtable), “Bending” Evidence for a Cause: Scholar-Advocacy Bias in Family Law https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/58b/
  4. ‘Dr. Richard Warshak – overnight care; what works?’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/40/
  5. ‘Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/45/.
  6. ‘Shared Physical Custody: Summary of 40 Studies on Outcomes for Children’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/51/
  7. ‘Pamela Rudolph rejects McIntosh et al’ https://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/59/








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