High Father-Child Contact Equals Less Self-Hate?

Lerman, Isabel A. "Adjustment of latency age children in joint and single custody arrangements" California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, 1989 This study evaluated 90 children, aged 7 to 12, divided equally among maternal, joint legal,and joint physical custody groups.

Results showed negative effects for sole custody: "Single custody subjects evidenced greater self-hate and perceived more rejection from their fathers than joint physical custody subjects." Conflict between parents was found to be a significant factor, which may explain the better adjustment for joint physical custody children: "Degree of interparental conflict was a significant predictor of child self-hate. Higher conflict was associated with greater self-hate; lower conflict was associated with lower self-hate." "Higher father-child contact was associated with better adjustment, lower self-hate, and lower perceived rejection from father; lower father-child contact was associated with poorer adjustment, higher self-hate, and higher perceived rejection from father. "
The above-cited Lerman study did not control for amicable self-selection of joint custody families, or for pre-existing higher conflict resulting in sole custody families. Because of that, its findings on child adjustment have not been replicated by later studies with appropriate controls. And in light of that,

this study does not support the imposition of joint custody. The study found conflict to be a significant problem, and subsequent studies have found that imposed joint custody exacerbates that conflict. In addition, the study's assumptions regarding the benefits of father-child contact have not been supported by the findings of subsequent, large-scale studies, such as the following far more authoritative research discussed, below, by one of the most credible and authoritative researchers:

"In a large California study, Maccoby and Mnookin (1992) found that joint custody is sometimes used to resolve custody disputes. They found that joint custody was awarded in about one-third of cases in which mothers and fathers had each sought sole custody. And the more legal conflict that occurred between parents, the more likely joint custody was to be awarded.

"Three and one-half years after separation, these couples were experiencing considerably more conflict and less co-operative parenting than were couples for whom joint custody was the first choice of each parent."

-- Amato, Paul R., Contact With Non-custodial Fathers and Children's Wellbeing, "Family Matters", No. 36, Dec, pp. 32-34, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne, Australia.

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