4th International Conference on Shared Parenting 2018 – Opening Remarks by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Upholding the child’s right to a family after parents’ separation

Newsroom – Council of Europe – Strasbourg – 22 November 2018


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Shared parenting after separation/divorce, children’s rights and the role of the states in safeguarding best interests of the child is the key theme of the 4th International Conference for Shared Parenting held under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 22-23 November 2018.

The debate about shared parenting is particularly relevant today, given historically low marriage rates, relatively high levels of marital and relationship breakdown and the changing nature and definition of the family.

According to International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP), the key organizer of the conference, in France alone, nearly 200,000 children per year are affected by the divorce of their parents, and 73% of children after the divorce live with their mother and visit their father on alternate weekends. At the same time, recent studies have shown that children who live alternatively and about equally with both parents after a parental separation report better well-being and mental health than parents who live mostly or only with one parent.

Gabriella Battani-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in her opening remarks said: “There is an apparent, growing consensus that, when possible, shared parenting should be supported as part of separation and divorce arrangements.”

Shared parenting aims to maintain positive relationships between children and their parents in high-conflict separations and empower parents to meet their parental responsibilities in an equal way, she stressed.

The concept extends the principle of gender equality and challenges the stereotype of the father as breadwinner and the mother as nurturing carer and homemaker, still deeply entrenched in many cultures and still playing a role in many custody agreements.

However, shared parenting should not become a goal in itself or a systematic resumption: there are cases when shared custody does not correspondent to the child’s best interests. The decision on whether shared parenting is the best solution must take into account the individual circumstances, such as situations of intra-family violence, as well as the child’s views and expressed position.

The conference is supported by the City of Strasbourg, the University of Strasbourg and the Jardin des Sciences.


Opening Remarks by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe at the 4th International Conference on Shared Parenting 2018 – Speeches


Speech at the 4th International Conference on Shared Parenting 2018

Strasbourg, 22 November 2018

As delivered

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to this Conference on an area of law that is fast-evolving within nation states and international organisations, in Europe and around the world.

The debate about the desirability, practicality and extent of shared parenting is brought into sharp relief by the high rates of marital and relationship breakdown – and the changing nature and definition of the family – in many countries today.

If this makes our topic something of a moving target, it also underlines the necessity of pursuing it.

The European Court of Human Rights cites frequently the “best interest of the child” when reaching judgments concerning children.

This principle also underpins Article 17 of the European Social Charter – the right of children to social, legal and economic protection – and, of course, many other international organisations and domestic courts adhere to it too.

I hope then that the best interests of the child is a lens through which we all see this debate – even if our interpretation of what those best interests are may sometimes result in a spectrum of colours.

There is however an apparent, growing consensus that, when possible, shared parenting should be supported as part of separation and divorce arrangements.

This does, after all, aim to:

  • maintain positive relationships between children and their parents in high conflict separations
  • empower parents to take on and meet their parental responsibilities in an equal way
  • And do so in a manner that extends, not hinders, gender equality

This is about aiming for an equal balance as far as possible.

From a Council of Europe point of view, the rationale for generalising shared parenting lies in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: respect for private and family life.

That right is universal – it applies to every parent, and every child – and it states that there should be:

“no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law”, meaning where a family law decision or child protection order is involved.

And under Article 16 of the Revised European Social Charter, spouses must be equal in respect of rights and duties, particularly with regard to children.

Articles 7 and 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also highlight the right to have contact with, and be raised by, both parents.

And the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction contains specific provisions for cross-border cases.

These last two treaties have informed the Council of Europe’s work in this area, including decisions by the Strasbourg Court and the provision of our Convention on Contact Concerning Children.

But from our point of view the decision on whether shared parenting is the best solution in any given case must take into account the individual circumstances – to really ascertain what is in the best interests of the child.

This requires due regard to Article 8 of the European Convention, of course.

But it also means taking into account the child’s views and expressed position according to conditions defined by, among others, articles 9 and 12 of the UNCRC.

For example, the case of Hokkannen versus Finland, heard in the European Court of Human Rights, found that the access and visitation rights of a parent should not be imposed if the child is sufficiently mature and expresses a clear refusal.

Quite clearly, the child’s best interest principle must also take into account situations of intra-family and intimate-partner violence.

Our Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is clear on this point:

That for a child to be exposed to such violence – either as a direct victim or as a witness – is itself a form of abuse that requires intervention and that this must be taken into account in custody and visitation arrangements.

The impact on the child should not be minimised.

Nor of course the effect on the parent in question – predominantly the mother – whose last ties to the perpetrator are often the child-sharing arrangements.

Article 31 of the Convention therefore lays out the obligation to ensure that victims and their children remain safe from further harm – and Article 45(2) includes the possibility of withdrawal of parental rights in specific circumstances where the best interest of the child cannot be guaranteed any other way.

This is a last – but necessary – resort.

So this is where we stand today at the Council of Europe level.

I hope that this Conference will provide an opportunity to learn more from one another about where the debate – and law on shared parenting – stand in our respective countries and organisations:

To discuss how modern families, public opinion and the evolution of the law can ensure that parents make the best possible contribution to the lives of their children.

And how we can ensure the best interests of the child so that he or she can go on to achieve their own, individual potential.

I wish you all a very successful Conference.

Posted in 2018, Council of Europe, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Equal Parenting, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, ICSP, International Council for Shared Parenting, Shared Parenting, Shared Parenting Time, Shared residence | Leave a comment

Impact of the European Convention on Human Rights – Family (Including Links to Factsheets on the family case-law of the European Court of Human Rights)

Impact of the European Convention on Human Rights – Family (Including Links to the Factsheets on the family case-law of the European Court of Human Rights)

Selected on relevance for non-resident parents by Peter Tromp from:


  • The European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to respect for family life.
  • This includes the rights of parents to have custody and contact with their children, and the rights of children to be with their parents.
  • The European Court of Human Rights helps to protect families from being unlawfully separated – including protecting the rights of parents to recover abducted children.


Council of Europe’s Children’s Rights Division

Factsheets on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights:


Father wins battle to see his son – and rights for all Czech parents

When Vladimír Zavřel’s wife left the family home, she took the couple’s six-year-old son and prevented Vladimir from seeing him. Vladimir got a court order for contact with his boy, but the authorities failed to enforce it. The European court ruled that this had violated the right to family life. Contact was re-established and the law was changed to prevent similar situations happening again.

Themes: Family Czech Republic

Read more


Reforms to protect family life after a father was separated from his daughter

When Teuvo Hokkanen’s wife died he temporarily allowed her parents to look after his daughter, Sini. The grandparents then refused to return Sini or to let Teuvo see her. The Finnish courts ordered regular meetings to take place between Teuvo and his daughter, but the authorities failed to enforce that order. The European court ruled that this had violated Teuvo’s right to family life.

Themes: Family Finland

Read more


A mother’s struggle to be with her children leads to better protection for family life

M.D. lost custody of her two children after the authorities found that her former partner had been beating them and she had not protected them. M.D. then ended her relationship with the abusive partner and tried to get her children back. However, under Maltese law she had lost custody of the children forever, and she had no way to challenge this in the national courts.

Themes: Family Malta

Read more


Improved custody rights for fathers of children born out of marriage

Horst Zaunegger had a daughter and separated from the child’s mother. German law limited his chances to obtain joint custody, because he and the mother had never been married. After he won his case in Strasbourg, the law was changed to give fathers such as Mr Zaunegger more rights.

Themes: Equality Family Germany

Read more


Fair custody rights for fathers of children born out of marriage

Under Austrian law, custody of a child born out of marriage was automatically given to the mother, with few exceptions. Meanwhile, custody of children born within marriage was decided according to the child’s best interests. At the Strasbourg court, Mr Sporer successfully argued that this was unfair – leading to a change in Austrian law.

Themes: Equality Family Austria

Read more


Reforms made after a child was unable to be legally recognised as her father’s daughter

Nessa Williams-Johnston could not be legally recognised as her father’s daughter, because her father had previously been married to someone other than Nessa’s mother. After the Strasbourg court ruled in the family’s favour, new legislation was passed to give children in Nessa’s position proper legal status.

Themes: Family Ireland

Read more


Case of a mother separated from her child

When María Iglesias Gil had a son by her ex-husband, she was given custody of the child. However, her ex-husband took the child away to the United States. When Mrs Iglesias Gil went to the Spanish courts, they refused to issue an international arrest warrant and closed the case. The Strasbourg court ruled that this decision had breached Ms Iglesias Gil’s right to family life.

Themes: Family Spain

Read more


Legal reforms after court-ordered child support was unpaid for thirteen years

Snežana Boucke had a baby daughter out of marriage. The father was ordered to pay child support. The authorities failed to make sure the order was enforced, and the payments were not made for 13 years. The Strasbourg court ruled that this breached Ms Boucke’s right to have court rulings properly enforced. The case led to significant reforms to improve the enforcement of court orders.

Themes: Family Right to a fair trial Montenegro

Read more


Reforms to protect family life after father was unable to see his child

Stefano Bianchi was given custody of his son when he separated from his wife. However, his wife took the child abroad and refused to return. When Mr Bianchi complained to the Swiss authorities, they failed to take action to reunite father and son. The Strasbourg court ruled that this breached Mr Bianchi’s right to family life. The relevant procedures were subsequently reformed.

Themes: Family Switzerland

Read more



Council of Europe’s Children’s Rights Division


Factsheets on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights:

Posted in 2018, Article 8 (Family Life), Council of Europe, European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR), European Court of Human Rights, Factsheets on family case-law ECHR, Peter Tromp, Peter Tromp (VKC Netherlands Primary founding father and Secretary of PEF) | Leave a comment

Statistical analysis of 2015 Hague Convention applications on International Child Abduction – Summary provisional global report

A statistical analysis of applications made in 2015 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction — Summary of global report (Part 1)

Hague Convention Preliminary Procedural Document No 11 A of October 2017 (provisional edition, pending the completion of the French version)

  • Authors: Professor Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens
  • Related document: Preliminary Document No 11 B of October 2017: Regional report



1. Background and rationale of the project

  1. This is the fourth research study to look into the operation of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereinafter, “the 1980 Hague Convention”). The study has been conducted by Professor Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens, in consultation with the Permanent Bureau and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). [1] Special thanks are given to ICMEC which generously funded the project and provided support throughout.
  2. This Survey concerns all applications received by Central Authorities in 2015 and will use the findings of previous studies of 1999, 2003 and 2008 to provide an analysis of statistical trends over a 16-year period.
  3. In all we received responses from 72 Contracting States and estimate that this captures 94% of all applications.[2] We have experienced generous co-operation from Central Authorities who have given their time to provide us with their information and to answer subsequent queries. In producing this report, we are indebted to the Central Authorities for their hard work and co-operation and to ICMEC for their additional assistance in inputting data into INCASTAT.[3]

2. Methodology

  1. The questionnaire concerns all applications received by Central Authorities between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2015. Outcomes of applications were recorded up to 18 months after the last possible application could have been made, namely 30 June 2017. Applications unresolved after that date have simply been classified as “pending”. Accordingly, 2015 was chosen to give as contemporaneous a view as possible in relation to the holding of the Seventh Meeting of the Special Commission in October 2017.
  2. Although the questionnaire was essentially the same as before, for the first time information has been collected via the INCASTAT online database.
  3. As in previous Surveys, the analysis is based on information provided by Central Authorities in particular in relation to: the number of applications they received; the “taking persons” in return applications and the “respondents” in access applications; the children involved; the outcomes of the applications; and the length of time it took to reach a final outcome.
  4. The data contained in this report was submitted by Central Authorities from their own records. We have primarily relied upon the data from incoming applications (Forms A2 and B2 on INCASTAT) but have also used the data from outgoing applications to calculate overall numbers.


  1. Replies have been received from 72 of the 93 Contracting States that were Party to the 1980 Hague Convention in 2015 (there are now 98 following the accession of Bolivia, Jamaica, Pakistan, Philippines and Tunisia). Detailed information has been provided on a total of 2,560 incoming applications, comprising 2,191 return and 369 access applications. We estimate that this captures 94% of all applications made to Central Authorities in 2015.[4]
  2. Making a direct comparison with the 2008 Survey, there has been a 3% increase in return applications but a 3% decrease in access applications. [5]

1. Return applications

  1. 73% of taking persons were mothers, a higher proportion than the 69%recorded in 2008, 68% in 2003 and 69% in 1999. In 2015, 24% of the taking persons were fathers and the remaining 2% comprised grandparents, institutions or other relatives.
  2. Where the information was available, the large majority (83%) of taking persons were the “primary carer” or “joint-primary carer” of the child. [6] Where the taking person was the mother, this figure was 92% but only 60% where the taking person was the father. 58% of taking persons travelled to a State of which they were a national.[7] Proportionately more taking fathers (64%) had the same nationality as the Requested State compared with 56% of mothers.
  3. At least 2,904 children were involved in the 2,191 return applications, making an average of 1.3 children per application. A large majority of applications (70%) involved a single child and there were close to equal numbers of boys and girls with 53% of children being male and 47% female. The average age of a child involved in a return application was 6.8 years.
  4. The overall return rate was 46%, the same as in 2008 but lower than the 51% in 2003 and 50% in 1999. This return rate comprised 17% voluntary returns and 28% judicial returns. A further 3% of applications concluded with access being agreed or ordered which was the same as in in 2008 and 2003.[8] 12% of applications ended in a judicial refusal (less than the 15% in 2008 and 13% in 2003, though higher than the 11% in 1999), 14% were withdrawn (18% in 2008, 15% in 2003 and 14% in 1999) and the number of applications still pending at the cutoff date of 30 June 2017 was 5% (compared with 8% in 2008, 9% in 2003 and 9% in 1999). There was a decrease in the rate of rejection by the Central Authorities under Article 27 with 3% of applications ending in this way in 2015 (compared with 5% in 2008, 6% in 2003 and 11% in 1999).
  5. In 2015, 42% of applications were decided in court (44% in 2008, 44% in 2003 and 43% in 1999). 67% of court decisions resulted in a judicial return order being made compared with 61% in 2008, 66% in 2003 and 74% in 1999.
  6. In 2015, 238 applications ended in a judicial refusal. Some cases were refused for more than one reason and if all reasons are combined, the most frequently relied upon ground for refusal was Article 13(1)(b) (42 applications, 26%) and the child not being habitually resident in the Requested State (43 applications, 27%). Article 12 was a reason for refusal in 26 applications (16%) and the child’s objections in 25 applications (16%).
  7. In 2015, applications were generally resolved more quickly, compared with the 2008 Survey. The average time taken to reach a decision of judicial return was 158 days (compared with 166 days in 2008, 125 days in 2003 and 107 in 1999) and a judicial refusal took an average of 244 days (compared with 286 days in 2008, 233 days in 2003 and 147 days in 1999). For applications resulting in a voluntary return the average time taken was 108 days, compared with 121 days in 2008, 98 days in 2003 and 84 days in 1999.
  8. 32% of all applications decided in court involved an appeal, an increase on the 24% in 2008. In 70% the same outcome was reached on appeal as at first instance, compared with 80% in 2008.

2. Access applications

  1. In the 369 access applications made under Article 21 in 2015, 74% of respondents were mothers (79% in 2008, 79% in 2003 and 86% in 1999).
  2. 58% of respondents had the same nationality as the Requested State compared with 50% in 2008, 53% in 2003 and 40% in 1999.
  3. 75% of applications concerned a single child with an average of 1.3 children per application. The overall average age of a child involved was 8 years and 51% of children were female and 49% male.
  4. The overall rate at which access was agreed or ordered was 27%, compared with 21% in 2008, 33% in 2003 and 43% in 1999. 20% of applications were withdrawn (31% in 2008, 22% in 2003 and 26% in 1999), 17% pending and 31% ending in reasons described as “other”. 4% were rejected and 2% judicially refused.
  5. Access applications took longer to resolve than return applications. The average time taken to reach a final outcome was 254 days overall, 97 days if there was a voluntary agreement for access, 291 days if access was judicially ordered and 266 days if access was refused. These timings are considerably faster than those in 2008 when the overall average was 339 days, 309 days where there was a voluntary agreement, 357 days where access was judicially ordered and 276 days if access was judicially refused.

[1] Professor Nigel Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Law at Cardiff University and Victoria Stephens is a freelance research consultant based in Lyon.
[2] This was calculated using information on incoming applications and, for States which did not respond to the Survey, using information from the outgoing cases database (INCASTAT database Forms A1 and B1). This can be compared with responses from 60 Contracting States for the 2008 Survey, 58 Contracting States in 2003 and 39 Contracting States in the 1999 Survey.
[3] Special thanks go to Thea Philip, Matt Hensch, Katie Lindahl, Hannah Lyden, Krati Jain, Elizabeth Phillips, Abbe Horswill and Sandra Marchenko at ICMEC. We are also grateful to Professor Costanza Honorati, Professor Olga Kharzova, Judge Mônica Sifuentes, Professor Hazel Thompson-Ahye and Dr Katarina Trimmings for their help in contacting Central Authorities.
[4] This was calculated using information from outgoing cases (INCASTAT database Forms A1 and B1) and an estimate of applications between States that did not respond to the Survey. This can be compared with responses from 60 Contracting States for the 2008 Survey, 58 Contracting States in 2003 and 39 Contracting States in the 1999 Survey.
[5] To gain a direct comparison, data from 2015 has been compared with that for only the States that responded to both Surveys. The applications made and received by States that implemented the 1980 Hague Convention after 2008 have also been excluded for these purposes.
[6] 20% were the sole primary carer of the child and 63% were a joint primary carer. These figures have been rounded up.
[7] Either their sole nationality was the same as the Requested State or they held dual or triple nationality, one of which was that of the Requested State. [8] Though it should be noted that a further 84 applications ended in some other voluntary agreement. See further Section D.4.b. The final outcomes agreed by consent.

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 Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D.*, 2017

The author –  RICHARD A. WARSHAK, PH.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and a clinical, consulting, and research psychologist in private practice. He consults and testifies internationally in child custody proceedings. Through his studies on divorce and custody appearing in 14 books and more than 75 articles, Dr. Warshak has had a broad impact on family law. He studies the psychology of alienated children; children’s involvement in custody disputes; and outcomes of divorce, child custody decisions, stepfamilies, relocations, and parenting plans for young children. Also he develops educational materials and interventions to help understand, prevent, and overcome damaged parent–child relationships. His website, warshak.com, provides resources for family law attorneys and their clients. Dr. Warshak’s book, Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, is widely regarded as a classic, and is available in e-book, audiobook, and seven foreign editions. The video he co-produced, Welcome Back, Pluto: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation, is used in every state in the U.S. and 26 foreign countries.


Warshak, with the review and endorsement of 110 researchers and practitioners, analyzed more than four decades of research and issued a peer-reviewed consensus report on parenting plans for children under four. As intended, the report stemmed a tide of misinformation that was threatening to resurrect myths about infant attachment and child development and enshrine them in professional practice and family law. The list of endorsers and their professional accomplishments reflect the widespread acceptance among scientists of the consensus report’s findings that favor shared parenting and overnighting for young children under normal circumstances. Nearly four years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak Consensus Report remain supported by science.

Free PDF-download of the full paper:

A free download of the full paper is offered by Dr. Richard Warshak here.

Cite as:

Warshak, R. A. (2017). Stemming the tide of misinformation: International consensus on shared parenting and overnighting. Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 30 (1), in press.


– Main Issues
– Background


– Gaps Between Research Participants and Custody Litigants
– Gaps Between Methodology and Conclusions
– Gaps Between Data and Interpretation
– Additional Gaps Between Data and Opinions

– Should Parental Conflict Trump Shared Parenting Time ?
– Recommendations to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Parental Conflict


– Recent studies
– Reactions to the Warshak Consensus Report
– Misunderstandings of the Warshak Consensus Report




Correspondence concerning this article, and requests for the report endorsed by an international consensus of experts, should be addressed to Dr. Warshak at doc@warshak.com  © 2017 by Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D.

Posted in Children under four, Consensus report, Overnightings, Parenting Plans, Richard Warshak, Shared Parenting, Shared Parenting Time, Stemming the tide, Young children | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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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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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Shared Physical Custody – Nielsen Analyses 40 Studies

Shared Physical Custody: Summary of 40 Studies on ‘Outcomes’ for Children

By Linda Nielsen, Department of Education, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA  2014

 Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55:614–636, 2014, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, ISSN: 1050-2556 print/1540-4811 online, DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2014.965578

( The now famous forty studies that have jeopardised so many reputations )

One of the most complex and compelling issues confronting policymakers, parents, and professionals involved in making custody decisions is this: What type of parenting plan is most beneficial for the children after their parents separate ?

More specifically, are the outcomes any better or worse for children who live with each parent at least 35% of the time compared to children who live primarily with their mother and spend less than 35% of the time living with their father ?

This article addresses this question by summarizing the 40 studies that have compared children in these two types of families during the past 25 years. Overall the children in shared parenting families had better outcomes on measures of emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being, as well as better physical health and better relationships with their fathers and their mothers, benefits that remained even when there were high levels of conflict between their parents.

 KEYWORDS:  joint physical custody, parenting plans, shared parenting, shared residential custody. overnighting, sleepovers.  Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Australia, Britain, USA.

Shared physical custody, more commonly referred to as shared parenting or shared care, is the parenting arrangement in which children live nearly equally with each parent after their separation. As fathers have become more heavily involved in their children’s lives and as more mothers have resumed working full-time in the children’s preschool years, shared parenting has become more common worldwide. The majority of children still live with their mother and spend no more than every other weekend and perhaps a midweek evening visit with their father. But a change is clearly underway.

In Wisconsin, one-third of the parents who divorced in 2007 had a 50–50 shared parenting plan and one-fourth had a 25% time share (Bartfeld, 2011). Likewise, in 2008 in Washington State almost half of the children were living at least 35% with each parent in 4,354 parenting plans (George, 2008).

In Arizona, half of the parents who filed for divorce in 2002 shared the residential parenting time 20% to 32% and another 15% shared 33% to 50% of the time (Venohr & Kaunelis, 2008). It is especially noteworthy that in Wisconsin there are nearly as many infants and toddlers (42%) as there are 6- to 10-year-olds (46%) in shared parenting families for those couples who have separated in recent years (Bartfeld, 2011).

In other countries a similar trend has emerged. Rates of shared parenting have tripled in Belgium since 1990 from 9% to more than 30% (Sodermans, Vanassche, & Matthijs, 2013), have risen in Denmark and in the Netherlands to 20% (Spruijt & Duindam, 2010), and have increased to nearly 50% for parents who have recently separated in Sweden (Swedish Government, 2011).

The question, therefore, is not whether shared parenting families are on the rise. Clearly they are. The question is this: Are the children in these families any better or worse off than children living primarily with their mother and living less than 35% of the time with their father? Put more bluntly, is the inconvenience of living in two homes worth it? Fortunately, there are now 40 studies that have addressed this question. Throughout this article, the term shared parenting is used to refer to families where the children live with each parent at least 35% of the time and generally 50% of the time.

The term sole residence is used to refer to children who continue to see their fathers, but who live primarily or exclusively with their mothers. In the sole residence families, the exact amount of time that the children spent with their fathers was not designated. As noted in Table 1 (below), in 24 of the 40 studies, all of the shared parenting children lived 50% of the time with each parent. In the other 12 studies, the children lived with their fathers anywhere from 35% to 50% of the time. (NB. Table 1 is displayed here at the largest size possible. Apologies for any difficulties in legibility caused thereby).


Trying to determine what impact shared parenting has on children has been difficult for at least two reasons. First, children whose parents have higher incomes or have the least conflict might have the better outcomes after their parents separate, regardless of the parenting plan. So unless the study controls for income and level of conflict, this leaves open the possibility that it was not the shared parenting per se that made the difference. Unfortunately, only 16 of the 40 studies have included these controls, as noted in Table 1.

Still, even in those studies where income and conflict were not considered, it would be a mistake to presume that those two factors mattered more than the shared parenting because a number of studies have found no differences in income or conflict between sharing and non-sharing couples (Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996; Cashmore & Parkinson, 2010; Kline, Tschann, Johnston, & Wallerstein, 1989; Sodermans, Matthijs, & Spicewood, 2013).

Table 1. Outcomes for Children in Shared Parenting vs Sole Residence Families


A second limitation is that the parents’ characteristics and marital status are not the same in all the studies – and those differences can affect the outcomes for children independent of the parenting plan. For example, the majority of parents in some studies were not married or living together when their children were born—a situation that often goes hand in hand with higher rates of poverty, incarceration, physical abuse, and substance abuse.

Along the same lines, some studies draw their conclusions from extremely small, non-random samples, whereas others have impressively large, random samples. As each study is presented, the unique characteristics of the sample and the samples sizes are noted.

A third limitation is that although most of the researchers used standardized instruments and valid procedures, others used measures that had no established validity or reliability. Sample sizes also varied greatly. Describing the methodological details and naming the many standardized tests used in each of the 40 studies is beyond the scope of this article. However, the limitations of each study and whether the data came from standardized measures will be briefly noted as a way of acknowledging that the findings from some studies merit more weight than others.


The 40 studies were identified by searching the databases in PsycINFO and Social Science Research Index. The keywords used in the search were shared parenting, shared care, joint or shared physical custody, shared or dual residence, and parenting plans. Although 85% of the studies were published in peer-reviewed academic journals, the remainder were reported in government-sponsored reports. The findings of the studies were grouped into five broad categories of child well-being as presented in Table 1:

  1. academic or cognitive outcomes, which includes school grades and scores on tests of cognitive development such as language skills;
  2. emotional or psychological outcomes, which includes feeling depressed, anxious, or dissatisfied with their lives; (c) behavioral problems, which include aggression or delinquency, difficult or unmanageable behavior at home or school, hyperactivity, and drug or alcohol use;
  3. physical health and smoking, which also includes stress-related illnesses such as stomach aches and sleep disturbances; and
  4. quality of father–child relationships, which includes how well they communicate and how close they feel to one another.

Positive  Outcomes  for  Children  in  Shared  Parenting  Families

We begin by summarizing the positive outcomes in the shared parenting families. Twelve of the 40 studies included children under the age of 6, but only 3 of those 12 focused exclusively on children under the age of 5, which is why they are summarized separately.


Beginning with the oldest studies, the Stanford Custody Project collected data from 1,100 divorced families with 1,406 children randomly chosen from the county’s divorce records. At the end of 4 years, the 51 adolescents in

the shared parenting families made better grades, were less depressed, and were more well-adjusted behaviorally than the 355 adolescents who lived primarily with their mother. The data came from interviews with the adolescents, parents’ questionnaires, and a battery of standardized tests measuring depression, anxiety, substance use, antisocial behavior, truancy, cheating, and delinquency.

The shared parenting children were better off on these measures than the other children of divorce. The quality of the parent – child relationship and how often they felt caught between their parents was also assessed through interviews. The shared adolescents were less likely to be stressed by feeling the need to take care of their mother.

Moreover, having closer relationships with both parents seemed to offset the negative impact of the parents’ conflicts in those families where the conflict remained high. Importantly, this study controlled for parents’ educations, incomes, and levels of conflict; used standardized measures to assess the children’s well-being;

used a randomized sample; followed the children over a 4-year period; and gathered data from both parents and the children (Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996; Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992).

Five smaller studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s also found equal or better outcomes for the shared children. The first study included 35 shared parenting and 58 sole residence children ages 3 to 11 with White, college-educated parents (Kline et al., 1989). Standardized tests were used to measure the parents’ anxiety and depression and the children’s social, emotional, and behavioral problems, in addition to clinicians’ observations of parent–child interactions.

Although there were no differences in the children’s social or behavioral adjustment scores, the shared children were better adjusted emotionally. Having a depressed mother, having parents in high conflict (which was similar in both types of families), or the child’s having a difficult temperament was more closely linked to the children’s well-being than was the parenting plan. In another study of similar size, 3 years after the divorce, the 62 shared parenting children were less depressed, less stressed, and less agitated than the 459 children in sole residence based on standardized tests completed by the mother about the child’s mental state and behavior.

Especially important is that all of the children had similar scores 3 years earlier when their parents divorced, suggesting that the shared parenting was indeed having a positive impact (Pearson & Thoennes, 1991). The other study by these same researchers should be viewed more speculatively because there were only 9 children in shared parenting families compared to 83 children living with their mothers.

Using a standardized child behavior checklist, the two groups of mothers reported no differences in their children’s depression, aggression, delinquency, or somatic complaints (Pearson & Thoennes, 1991). In another very small study with only 11 shared parenting families and 16 sole mother and 16 sole father families 4 years after divorce, the parents reported no differences in how well-adjusted the children were on standardized measures of their wellbeing and based on researchers’ interviews with the parents and the children (Luepnitz, 1991). In yet another study with small samples, high-conflict parents who had volunteered for free counseling to resolve their co-parenting issues reported, at the end of 1 year, the 13 shared children were better off in regard to stress, anxiety, behavioral problems, and adjustment than the 26 sole residence children.

Notably, the children whose parents needed the most intensive counseling at the outset to make the shared parenting work ended up faring as well as the children whose parents initially got along best. The data were derived from clinicians’ assessments of the children on standardized measures, interviews with both parents, and feedback from teachers and day care workers at the time of separation, then again at 6 months and 1 year. It is worth noting that the shared parenting children ranged in age from 1 to 10 and that in both types of families children under the age of 4 were better adjusted than the older children (Brotsky, Steinman, & Zemmelman, 1991).

In a larger study in Toronto that was based on the researchers’ non-standardized 114-item questionnaire, only one-third of the 201 parents in shared parenting families said their parenting plan worked out well from the outset. Despite this, at the end of 1 year, 91% of these parents said their children were happy and well-adjusted, compared to only 80% of the 194 couples without shared parenting plans (Irving & Benjamin, 1991).

Overall then, even though the sample sizes were small in these studies, the findings were consistent with the larger studies in regard to the benefits of shared parenting.

More recent studies with far larger samples that gathered data from both parents have reached similar conclusions. In a large, randomized sample in Wisconsin, the children in the 590 shared parenting families were less depressed, had fewer health problems and stress-related illnesses, and were more satisfied with their living arrangement than the children in the 590 sole residence families (Melli & Brown, 2008). The data came from both parents’ answers to a series of questions asked in telephone interviews. Ranging in age from 1 to 16, the shared parenting children were 30% less likely to have been left with babysitters or in day care. Nearly 90% of their fathers attended school events, compared to only 60% of the other fathers.

Almost 60% of the mothers said the fathers were very involved in making everyday decisions about their children’s lives. In fact 13% of the mothers wished the fathers were less involved. In a smaller study with 10- to 16-year-olds, the 207 shared children were more likely than the 272 in sole residence to have parents with authoritative parenting styles, which was linked to less anxiety and less depression as measured by standardized tests (Campana, Henderson, & Stolberg, 2008). In a very small study with 6- to 10-year-olds, the 20 children in shared parenting were no less aggressive and had no fewer behavioral problems according to the standardized tests than the 39 children in sole residence after controlling for parental conflict and the quality of the mother-child relationship. Because the mothers of the shared children said they had more physical and verbal conflict with the fathers than the sole residence mothers, this suggests that whatever benefits might have accrued from the shared parenting were erased by the higher conflict (Lee, 2002).

Studies with college-age children have also found better outcomes for those from shared parenting families. In the oldest study, the 30 U.S. college students from the shared parenting families reported having better relationships with both parents than the 201 who had lived with their mothers. In fact, they rated their relationships with their fathers higher than the students from intact families (Fabricius, 2003). Similarly, 105 Canadian students from shared parenting families gave their mothers higher ratings than the 102 students from intact families and rated their fathers almost as highly (Frank, 2007). In an even larger study, the 340 shared parenting students reported having closer relationships with their fathers than the 686 who had lived with their mothers. What was especially important was that the quality of their relationships was linked incrementally to how much overnight time (‘sleepovers’), the fathers and children had spent together.

That is, as the actual amount of overnight time (aka ‘sleepovers’), they spent together during adolescence increased from 1% up to 50%, the young adults’ positive ratings of their relationships with their fathers also increased. Even the worst relationships got higher ratings when the father and child had spent more time together during the teenage years (Fabricius, Sokol, Diaz, & Braver, 2012).

Similarly in a very small study, the 5 college students from shared parenting families reported better relationships with their fathers and felt that their parents were equal in terms of their authority compared to the other 22 students with divorced parents (Janning, Laney, & Collins, 2010). And, as was true in the studies with younger children,

75 young adults from shared parenting homes reported having fewer health problems and fewer stress-related illnesses than the other 140 students with divorced parents (Fabricius & Luecken, 2007). The young adults’ ratings of their relationships with their parents in all of these studies came from questionnaires created by the researchers.


Studies from other countries have yielded similar results to those in the United States and Canada. The one British study (Smart, 2001) only had 21 children in shared parenting to compare to the 96 children living with their mothers, with children ranging from age 6 to 16. The study is methodologically weak because the researchers merely summarized their unstructured interviews with the children. Some children adapted well and appreciated

the benefits of living equally with both parents. Others felt stressed living in two homes, especially if the parents remarried, step-siblings lived with them, or the children had trouble keeping track of their things and schedules.

A fuller picture emerges from six studies that were conducted in Sweden, using national data from standardized tests and national surveys of drug and alcohol use. In the first study, 443 shared parenting children had more close friends and fewer problems making friends than the 2,920 children in sole residence, and were no different in regard to being aggressive or violent, using drugs, and drinking (Jablonska & Lindberg, 2007).

In the second, the 17,350 shared adolescents rated themselves higher on 7 of the 11 scales of well-being than the 34,452 in sole residence (Bergstrom et al., 2013). The shared children were better off in regard to their emotional, social, and psychological well-being, peer relationships and social acceptance, and physical health. Interestingly, too, the 15-year-olds were even more similar than the 12-year-olds to the 112,778 children living in intact families, suggesting either that the benefits might become more pronounced after several years or that older teenagers benefit even more than preteens.

More important still, the shared parenting teenagers felt the most comfortable talking to both of their parents. In the third study, the 270 shared adolescents fared better than the 801 in sole residence families in regard to smoking, having sex before the age of 15, getting drunk, cheating, lying, stealing, losing their tempers, fighting, bullying, and disobeying adults (Carlsund, Eriksson, Lefstedt, & Sellstrom, 2012). In the fourth study, the 888 shared children reported being more satisfied with their lives, feeling less depressed, and having fewer stress-related health problems. Importantly, after controlling for their parents’ incomes and educations, the shared children were not significantly different from the intact family children in regard to having stress-related health problems and feeling comfortable talking to their parents about things that bothered them (Carlsund et al., 2012). In the fifth study, the 225  children aged between 10- to 16-year-olds who lived equal time with each parent were less stressed than the 595 who lived primarily with one parent.

Trained interviewers administered a questionnaire to the children as well as interviewing both the parents and the children. Importantly, this study took account of parental conflict, socioeconomic status, and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Interestingly, too, regardless of family type, the amount of conflict that the parents reported was not linked to the amount of stress their children reported (Turunen, 2014).

Similar results have emerged in Norway and in the Netherlands. In the Norwegian study, although the 41 shared adolescents were no less likely to drink or use drugs than the 409 adolescents in sole residence, they were less likely to smoke, to be depressed, to engage in antisocial behavior, or to have low self-esteem. The study used standardized tests and controlled for the father’s educational level (Breivik & Olweus, 2006).

In the Netherlands, for 135 children aged 10 to 16, the shared girls were less depressed, less fearful, and less aggressive than the girls in the 250 sole residence families, as measured by standardized tests. There were no differences for the boys.

Moreover, both the boys and the girls in the sharing families reported being as close to their fathers as the children from intact families, even though the sharing parents had similar levels of conflict and the same socioeconomic status as the non-sharing parents (Spruijt & Duindam, 2010). Similarly in another study, the 405 shared adolescents rated their relationships with both parents higher than the 1,045 adolescents who lived with their mother, although they were no less likely to report feeling depressed (Vanassche, Sodermans, & Matthus, 2014). Using a standardized questionnaire with children age 4 to 16, the third study also found that the 966 shared children were better off than the 2,217 children who lived with their mother in regard to their pro-social behavior, hyperactivity, peer relationships, behavioral problems, and psychological problems. Importantly, this study controlled for parents’ incomes, levels of conflict, and how involved the father was with the children before the parents separated. Half of the positive impact was linked to the parents having higher incomes and less conflict in the sharing families and half to the shared parenting arrangement itself (Westphal & Monden, 2014).

The more positive outcomes for children in shared parenting families could be related to the possibility that their fathers might be more likely than other divorced fathers to have an authoritative parenting style—the style that has been associated with better outcomes for children in various types of families. The one shared parenting study that tested this hypothesis found this to be true. Nearly 40% of the 139 shared parenting children between the ages of 10 and 18 rated their fathers’ parenting as authoritative compared to 30% of the children in intact families and 22% of the 227 children who lived primarily with their mother. Interestingly, the shared parenting fathers were more authoritative (40%) than the fathers in married families (30%).

This might help to explain why the shared children had higher scores on a standardized test of self-esteem and reported being more satisfied with their lives than the sole residence children (Bastaits, Ponnet, & Mortelmans, 2014).

Turning to Australia, the largest study was based on data from a national 320 survey involving 1,235 children in shared care (the term used in Australia for shared parenting) and 6,435 children in primary care (Kaspiew et al., 2009).

Unlike all of the studies discussed so far, half of these parents were not married when their children were born. Notably, even though the two groups of parents were just as likely to say there had been violence between them, “children in shared care time arrangements seem to fare no worse than children in other care time arrangements where there has been a history of violence or where there is ongoing high conflict between the parents” (Kaspiew et al., 2009, p. 273). Importantly, even after accounting for parents’ levels of education and violence, the shared care children had marginally better outcomes on the behavioral and emotional measures according to their fathers, and had similar outcomes according to their mothers.

On the other hand, if the mothers were concerned about the safety of the children when they were with their fathers, they reported worse outcomes for the children in shared care. In three other Australian studies (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2010), shared care was again more advantageous based on data from standardized tests.In the first study, 84 shared care and 473 primary care children were assessed at ages 4 and 5 and then again 2 years later.

The shared care children were less hyperactive and had fewer social or academic problems than children in primary care. In the second study, the 90 shared care parents reported better outcomes for their children than the 411 primary care parents in regard to overall happiness, problems moving between homes, and the children’s relationships with their parents and their grandparents. Again though, those mothers who had concerns about their children’s safety in their father’s care reported worse outcomes for the children in shared care. In the third study, even though the 110 children in primary care and the 26 in shared care were equally satisfied with their living arrangement, more than 40% of the primary care children said they wanted more time with their father.

Smaller Australian studies confirm the findings from these larger studies. Four years after the parents separated, 42 young adolescents in a high-conflict, sometimes violent, non-random sample of shared parenting families were compared to 44 children living with their mothers. The shared care children said they felt caught in the middle of their parents’ conflicts more often—which is not surprising as the other children’s fathers had often disengaged or virtually disappeared from their lives. This might help explain why the shared children did not feel more stressed than the other children and why they had better relationships with their fathers. There were no differences in their mental health scores and the children who were hyperactive at the outset tended to remain that way over 4 years regardless of the parenting plan.

The researchers also cautioned that the findings should not be generalized because these children had far more mental health issues than the normal population (McIntosh, Smyth, Kelaher, & Wells, 2010). Another 105 adolescents living in shared care, compared to 398 living with their mother and 120 living with their father, reported having the best relationships with both parents, their step-parents, and their grandparents 2 years after their parents’ separation. They were no different on social adjustment and academic achievement. But they were much more likely than those in sole residence to confide in their fathers (80% vs. 45%) and to say they had a close relationship with him (97% vs. 65%; Lodge & Alexander, 2010).

In a smaller study with 10-year-olds, the 27 shared care children were reported by their mothers as being less hyperactive than the 40 children in primary care. The children reported being equally satisfied with either parenting plan, but the shared care parents reported being more satisfied and less stressed than the other divorced parents. The researchers suggested that being less stressed might have enabled the sharing parents to provide higher quality parenting that, in turn, helped reduce their children’s hyperactivity (Neoh & Mellor, 2010).

Only one shared parenting study has included children from different countries (Bjarnason, 2012; Bjarnason et al., 2010). These researchers analyzed data from 40 countries involving nearly 200,000 children: 148,177 in intact families, 25,578 in single-mother families, 3,125 in single-father families, 11,705 in mother–stepfather families, 1,561 in father–stepmother families, and 2,206 in shared parenting families. The data came from the World Health Organization’s national surveys of 11-, 13-, and 15-year-olds. Consistent with the studies already discussed, only 29% of the shared parenting children said it was difficult to talk to their fathers about things that really bothered them, compared to 43% of the children who lived with their single mother or with their mother and stepfather.

In fact, the children from shared families were somewhat less likely (29%) than those in intact families (31%) to have trouble talking to their fathers. What is especially important about this study is that, in all types of families, how satisfied the children felt with their lives was closely related to how well they felt they communicated with their fathers. In contrast, their satisfaction was not related to how well they believed their family was doing financially. Because the shared parenting children felt they communicated best with their fathers, they were the most satisfied with their lives, regardless of the family’s financial situation.

Unfortunately, daughters were twice as likely as sons to say it was hard to talk to their fathers about things that were worrying them, regardless of family type.

In that vein, another question is whether girls benefit any more or any less than boys do from shared parenting. Girls’ relationships with their fathers are generally more damaged by their parents’ divorce or separation than boys’ relationships (Nielsen, 2011, 2012). Given this, we might ask: Do girls benefit more than boys from living with their fathers at least 35% of the time after the parents separate? According to several studies, the answer is yes.

Although adolescent girls felt more caught in the middle of their parents’ arguments than the boys did, the girls in shared parenting felt closer to their fathers and felt less need to take care of their mothers than the girls in sole residence (Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996). This suggests that even though girls tend to get more embroiled in their parents’ problems, living with their fathers helps to offset the damage this would otherwise do to the father – daughter relationship. Likewise, unlike the boys, adolescent Dutch girls in shared parenting families were less depressed, less fearful, and less aggressive than the girls who lived with their mothers, even though they saw their fathers regularly (Spruijt & Duindam, 2010).

Even for 3- to 5-year-olds in shared parenting, the girls were better adjusted than the boys (Kline et al., 1989). Similarly, 4- to 6-year-old girls were less socially withdrawn when they spent one or two nights a week with their fathers than when they never spent overnight time in his care ((no ‘sleepovers’). For the boys, however, the overnighting made no difference (Pruett, Ebling, & Insabella, 2004). On the other hand, in a Dutch study where parent conflict was extremely high, the girls were more depressed and more dissatisfied than the boys when they lived in a shared parenting family (Vanassche et al., 2014).

This suggests that boys might find it easier than girls to remain uninvolved in their parents’ conflicts.

Overall then, children in shared parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole residence in terms of their psychological, emotional, and social well-being, as well as their physical health and stress-related illnesses. Of equal if not greater importance, they had closer, more communicative, and more enduring relationships with their fathers.

Shared  Parenting  for  Infants,  Toddlers,  and  Pre-schoolers

Only six studies have focused exclusively on infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers who overnighted in their father’s care after the parents separated (Table 2). Even though the children in two of those studies were not actually in “shared parenting” where they overnighted 35% to 50% of the time (Pruett, Ebling, & Insabella, 2004; Solomon & George, 1999), their findings are nonetheless summarized here because they are so often discussed in the debate over parenting plans for infants and toddlers.

In the oldest study (Solomon & George, 1999) 44 infants ages 0 to 2 were only overnighting one to four times a month – often with fathers who went weeks without seeing the infant and who had never lived with the baby’s mother. When compared to the 49 infants who never overnighted, there were no differences in insecure attachment scores or in their interactions with their mothers on a challenging task in the laboratory setting. Even though the overnighting infants, unlike the non-overnighters, had more “disorganized” (cannot be classified) attachments than children in married families, the researchers attributed this to factors other than the overnighting, namely the parents’ violence and their never having lived together. Moreover, the overnighters did not have significantly more disorganized attachments than the non-overnighters.

In the second study, with 2- to 6-year-olds, the 99 overnighters were only overnighting an average of eight nights a month (Pruett, Insabella, & Gustafson, 2005). The other 33 children spent no overnight time with their fathers, but did have contact with him. Unlike the previous study, the parents were a representative sample of lower middle-class couples with average levels of conflict and no history of substance abuse or physical abuse. Most were married and living together (75%) when their children were born. All data came from standardized tests.

For the 2- to 3-year-olds, there were no significant differences between the overnighters and non-overnighters in regard to sleep problems, depression, anxiety, aggression, attentiveness, or social withdrawal.

Table 2.


Likewise, for the 4- to 6-year-olds, overnighting was not linked to any negative outcomes, but was associated with more positive outcomes in regard to social problems, attention problems, and thought problems (strange behaviors and ideas, hallucinations, psychotic symptoms). Unlike the 2- to 3-year-olds, there were gender differences on several outcomes for the 4- to 6-year-olds.

The girls who overnighted were less socially withdrawn than girls who did not overnight, whereas there were no differences for the boys. The girls were also less anxious than the boys when the parenting schedule was inconsistent and when several different people were taking care of them throughout the day. The researchers attributed this to the fact that girls are more socially and verbally mature than boys their age.

Importantly, this study examined the impact of having a number of different people taking care of the child throughout the day. This is important because one of the arguments against overnighting and shared parenting for infants and toddlers is that children this young will be more anxious and distressed if several different adults are taking care of them. As it turned out, the 4- to 6-year-olds with multiple caregivers had fewer social, behavioral, and attention problems, but had more anxiety and sleep problems.

Surprisingly, though, having multiple caregivers had no impact at all on the 2- to 3-year-olds. Given this, the researchers emphasized that there is no reason to be concerned about toddlers’ being taken care of by many adults in an overnighting parenting plan. On the other hand, having a consistent, unchanging schedule and having a good relationship with each parent was more closely related to children’s outcomes than whether or not they overnighted. Overall, though, overnighting had no negative impact on the 2- to 3-year-olds and had a positive impact on the 4- to 6-year-olds, especially the girls.

The third study (McIntosh et al., 2010) compared Australian children – most of whose parents had not been married—in three types of families: no overnights, occasional overnights or ‘sleepovers’ (1–3 nights monthly for infants and 1 – 9 nights for the 2- to 5- year-olds), and frequent overnights (4–15 overnights a month for infants and 10 – 15 overnights for the 2- to 5-year-olds).

For the 4- and 5-year-olds, there were no differences on any of the six measures of well-being or physical health. For the infants and toddlers, there were no differences on overall physical health, developmental problems, or reactions to strangers. The shared parenting toddlers wheezed less often and their scores on the behavioral problems test were perfectly within normal range, although higher than the less frequent overnighters’ scores. The shared parenting mothers said their babies stared at them and tried to get their attention more often, which the researchers claimed was a sign of insecurity on their three-question test, which had no reported validity or reliability. The shared parenting mothers also said their babies were more irritable than the infants who overnighted one to three times monthly.

There seems no reason to be alarmed by this finding, however, because their irritability scores were identical to those of infants from intact families and were no higher than infants who never overnighted. Similarly, although the 19 shared parenting toddlers’ scores were worse on the task persistence scale, the scale did not differentiate healthy or normal scores from unhealthy or abnormal ones. This means there is no way to determine whether the frequent overnighters had any noticeable or significant problems that would generate any concern about lack of persistence at tasks or at play.

Unlike the other studies on shared parenting, this particular study has been frequently criticized for its methodological shortcomings and its speculative interpretations of the data. Among these shortcomings were a lack of standardized measures, very small sample sizes for the occasional overnighting babies, the high numbers of parents who had never been married or lived together (60%–90%) and the practical insignificance of many of the findings. For these reasons, social scientists have concurred that this study contributes very little to our understanding of the impact of shared parenting and provides no convincing evidence that overnighting or shared parenting is bad for infants or toddlers (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2011; Lamb, 2012; Ludolph & Dale, 2012; Nielsen, 2013; Parkinson & Cashmore, 2011; Pruett, Cowan, Cowan, & Diamond, 2012; Warshak, 2012, 2014).

Given these concerns, it is troubling that this study has been frequently misrepresented or “woozled” in the media and in academic settings as evidence that ‘sleepovers’ or overnighting has a “deleterious impact” on infants and toddlers (Nielsen, 2014).

The fourth and fifth studies are distinct in that they focused exclusively on inner-city, impoverished, never married, poorly educated, minority parents with high rates of incarceration who were part of an ongoing Fragile Families study in 20 large U.S. cities (McClanahan, 2011). In the first study (Tornello et al., 2013) five standardized measures of well-being were used to compare 103  5-year-olds who had overnighted 128 to 256 nights a year when they were 3 years old to 528 5-year-olds who never overnighted and 505 who overnighted fewer than 128 nights a year. Only one difference emerged on these five measures: The 5-year-olds who had overnighted more than 128 nights displayed more positive behavior than those who had less frequently or never overnighted.

A second difference, based on the way these researchers chose to separate the 703 3-year-olds into “frequency of overnight” groups, was that 22 of the 60 3-year-olds who had overnighted anywhere from 50 to 260 times a year at age 1 and anywhere from 128 to 260 times at age 3 were rated as insecurely attached by their mothers – a larger percentage (37%) than those who never overnighted (18%), yet almost the same percentage (33%) as those who overnighted 1 to 12 times a year.

Unfortunately, attachment data were not available for 40% of the children and, as critics of the study have pointed out (Milar & Kruk, 2012), the mothers rated their children’s behavior on a modified version of the attachment test, rather than having trained observers do the rating on a validated version of the test. This raises doubts about what was actually being measured by this unusual procedure (van Ijzendoorn, Vereijken, Kranenburg, & Walraven, 2004).

More important still, the fifth study used exactly the same data as Tornello et al. (2013) and found no correlation at all between the actual number of overnights and each individual child’s attachment score (Sokol, 2014). That is, rather than assigning the children to four different groups and then comparing the entire group’s attachment scores, Sokol correlated each child’s individual score with the exact number of overnights for that child. Using this more exact way of analyzing the data, frequent overnights were not associated with attachment insecurity. Given Sokol’s findings and the questionability of the attachment procedure itself, it is troubling that the Tornello et al. study has been misrepresented as evidence that overnighting interferes with infants becoming securely attached to their mothers.

For example, the British Psychological Society reported the study under the headline “Staying Away Affects a Baby’s Attachment” (British Psychological Society, 2013) and the University of Virginia’s press release headline read “Overnights Away from Home Affect Children’s Attachments” (Samarrai, 2011).

In part because data from these three studies have been so widely misunderstood and mis-reported, a group of 111 international experts endorsed the recommendation of Warshak (2014) in his review of the literature on infant and toddler overnighting:

  • “Research on children’s overnights with fathers favors allowing children under four to be cared for at night by each parent rather than spending every night in the same home. We find the theoretical and practical considerations favoring overnights for most young children to be more compelling than concerns that overnights might jeopardize children’s development” (p. 59).
  • “There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers” (p. 60).
  • “The social science evidence . . . supports the view that shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children” (p. 59).

In the most recent study, the 16 children who had overnighted from 6 to 14 nights a month when they were under the age of 4 had closer relationships with their fathers when they were young adults than the 28 who had never overnighted and the 28 who had overnighted less frequently.

Importantly, this study controlled for the parents’ levels of conflict and education (Fabricius, 2014).

Negative  Outcomes  for  Children  in  Shared  Parenting

Overall then, the 40 studies show that children generally fared better in families where most of them lived half of the time with each parent. This does not mean, however, that all of these children were doing as well or better than children who were living with their mother and spending varying amounts of time with their father. Under some circumstances, the outcomes were worse for the shared parenting children. What were those circumstances?

Not surprisingly, one of the factors that sometimes diminished the benefits of shared parenting was high, ongoing conflict in which the children became involved. But did intense, ongoing conflict have any worse impact on children in shared parenting families? The answer appears to be no.

On the one hand, teenagers in shared parenting families were more likely to feel caught in the middle when their parents were disagreeing. But their parents were no more likely than other divorced parents to be in conflict.

More important, the problems between their parents were not related to the quality of their relationships with either parent, and, regardless of conflict levels, the shared parenting adolescents fared better in all measures of their emotional and behavioral well-being (Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996). For college students, those whose parents had the most conflict after their divorce were not as close to their fathers, regardless of the parenting plan. Still, living with their father more than 35% of the time was linked to a closer relationship regardless of the conflict level.

These researchers also pointed out that the negative outcomes often attributed to conflict might, in fact, be the consequence of too little fathering time, because children spend less time with their fathers when the conflict level is high (Fabricius & Luecken, 2007).

Remember, too, that children whose parents had the most conflict initially in shared parenting had just as favorable outcomes 1 year later as the children whose parents initially had the least conflict in shared parenting (Brotsky et al., 1991). In sum, the benefits of shared parenting are diminished, but not erased, when conflict between the parents remains high. Put differently, shared parenting is more likely to decrease the negative impact of high, ongoing conflict than sole residence parenting plans.

Remember, too, that gender seemed to influence the impact that conflict had on the children in shared and in sole parenting families. Girls tended to feel more caught in the middle of the conflicts than the boys did, but the girls in the shared parenting families felt closer to their father and felt less need to take care of their mother (Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996). Likewise, in Belgium the adolescent girls were more depressed and less satisfied with their lives than the boys if their parents were in high conflict (Vanassche et al., 2014). For college students, conflict in married, shared, or sole parenting families hurt the girls’ relationships with their fathers more than it hurt the boys’ relationships. Again, though, the girls in shared parenting had better relationships with both parents than the girls in sole residence (Frank, 2007).

A second factor that diminished the benefits of shared parenting was having a poor relationship with their father. Adolescents who had bad relationships with their fathers were more dissatisfied and more depressed in shared parenting families (Vanassche et al., 2014).

More seriously, when the father’s relationship with the children was one where the mother had concerns about the children’s safety when they were with him, the mothers reported worse outcomes for the children in shared than in sole residence families (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2010; Kaspiew et al., 2009). On that note, a recent study examined the links between conflict, fathering time, and the quality of the father–child relationship. All of these parents had been designated as high conflict by a judge, and all were litigating over parenting time or other custody issues. The lower the conflict, the more overnight time (‘sleepovers’), the 140 adolescents spent with their father and the more highly they rated their relationship with him. However, the children only had fewer behavioral problems when they lived with their father more than seven nights a month and when they said they had a good relationship with him. When the children felt the relationship was not a good one, then living with their father more than seven nights a month was linked to more behavioral problems (Sandler, Wheeler, & Braver, 2013).

Although not a negative outcome in the sense of creating significant or long-lasting problems for the children, living in two homes was more inconvenient for adolescents than for younger children. Given their more complicated social and academic lives, this is not particularly surprising.

Nevertheless, even the adolescents reported that living in two homes was worth the trouble, namely because they maintained close relationships with both parents. These studies were based on interviews with 22 children (Campo & Fehlberg, 2012) and 105 adolescents (Lodge & Alexander, 2010) in Australia, 40 Swedish adolescents (Haugen, 2010; Singer, 2008), 21 British adolescents (Smart, Neale, & Wade, 2001), and 22 elementary age children (Luepnitz, 1991) and 80 college students in the United States (Fabricius & Hall, 2000).


While acknowledging that some studies were more methodologically sophisticated and used more valid and reliable measures than the others, the fact remains that the 40 studies reached similar conclusions.

First, shared parenting was linked to better outcomes for children of all ages across a wide range of emotional, behavioral, and physical health measures.

Second, there was not any convincing evidence that overnighting or shared parenting was linked to negative outcomes for infants or toddlers.

Third, the outcomes are not positive when there is a history of violence or when the children do not like or get along with their father.

Fourth, even though shared parenting couples tend to have somewhat higher incomes and somewhat less verbal conflict than other parents, these two factors alone do not explain the better outcomes for the children.

By acknowledging and by disseminating the findings from these 40 studies, we can help dispel many of the myths about shared parenting and promote a fuller understanding of this parenting plan option.

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