(PRWEB) June 12, 2005
Children that are deprived of frequent contact with both their mother and their father have a greater risk of drug abuse, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, and many other behavioral and emotional problems. Children whose parents are divorced are at the greatest risk because court ordered visitation does not provide enough contact with the non-custodial parent to reduce the risk of deviant behavior.
The American Psychological Association (APA) references a meta-analysis of 33 studies involving 2660 families performed by psychologist Dr. Robert Bauserman of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore. The results indicated that Âchildren need to spend substantial time with both parents, especially their fathers.Â Bauserman goes on to add that children from divorced families who have continued, ongoing contact with both parents have less behavioral and emotional problems, had higher self-esteem, better family relations and school performance, and were as well-adjusted as children from intact families.
Results of a study to determine the importance of biological parentÂs contact with their children was conducted by the University of Bristol and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The results of the study indicated a direct link between contact with the childÂs biological parent and behavioral problems. According to the study, more frequent contact with a childÂs biological father after divorce led to fewer adjustment disorders. Having a step-parent did not reduce the risk, meaning that a childÂs contact with their natural parent is extremely important in the childÂs psychological and emotional development.
Other researchers have had similar findings. K. Alison Clarke-Stewart and Craig Hayward published their findings in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. In their article the researchers explain, Âthat children--especially daughters--benefit considerably when the parent they are not living with nevertheless does everyday things with the child, from 'shopping, reading, visiting, doing homework, watching TV together,' to 'spending holidays together.' The authors conclude that, for a school-age daughter, this 'doing everyday-type things together' with the parent she is not living with is the only predictor of psychological well-being.Â Step parents cannot replace the childÂs natural parents, and that relationship should never be offered as a substitution for the loving relationship between a child and their biological parent.
There is concern among some psychological professionals that forcing parents who have been through a contentious divorce to share custody could result in disaster. Indeed, many parents are so focused on their own emotional needs during and after divorce that the emotional needs of the child are neglected all together. The potential for one parent to abuse the emotions of a child and use the children against the other parent in these high conflict divorce cases is high. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a syndrome that is induced by a bitter ex spouse in a divorce or post divorce situation. Instead of encouraging a child to continue their loving relationship with the non-custodial parent and reducing the stress of separation an alienating parent attempts to stress the parent-child relationship to the point of destruction. By manipulating the child during this very insecure time to believe the problems that have led to divorce are all the fault of the other parent and instilling the fear that the other parent will not love the child anymore an alienating parent can break the parent-child bond. Once the child begins to believe the alienating parent and starts to show anger and resentment towards the non-custodial parent the child is said to have PAS. Alienation can be as devastating to a childÂs emotional health and well-being as death, and it is very hard to reverse. More information on PAS and alienation can be found at http://www.helpstoppas.com.
While this is a valid concern, studies have shown that parents who are allowed liberal visitation situations with their children after divorce report less conflict and fewer return trips to court. Parents learn to cooperate and share responsibility while meeting the emotional needs of their children. Studies have also shown that counties that have changed from a joint custody arrangement that gives the non custodial parent weekend visitation to a shared parenting arrangement with time spent equally between parents have decreased their rate of divorce. Certainly parents who have been shown to be unfit or who have a history of abuse should not be allowed this kind of liberal visitation as it would not be in the best interest of the child. However, parents and children who have enjoyed a loving relationship with each other prior to divorce should and must be allowed to continue that relationship even if the parentÂs marriage has failed.
Children have an emotional need for contact with their biological parents, and that need is being neglected by divorced parents and family courts. When research clearly shows the negative effects of reducing one parent to a visitor while burdening the other parent with the sole responsibility of the day to day care of the children why are we still allowing these situations to manifest? It is time for parents to realize that the future of their children depends on receiving the love and support they need from both their mother and father.
# # #