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Save our children from cycle

January 24, 2012

Dear Sir,

Many have asked what is in the best interest of the child? In the 2011 Throne Speech, Government stated it will introduce “Shared Parenting Legislation” and we feel that is the best thing for our children, especially with the current climate of gangs and violence. Hence, we would like to give kudos to Dr Linda Nielsen who, along with the many other professionals, has dedicated her life to researching how children are affected by and after separation and divorce. Dr Nielsen’s latest research, in the November 24, 2011 “Journal of Divorce & Remarriage”, reviews 30 years of research.

Dr. Nielsen states: “One of the most complex and compelling issues confronting policymakers, parents, and the Family Court System is what type of parenting plan is most beneficial for children after their parents’ divorce. How much time should children live with each parent? With an increasing number of children who are living with each parent at least 35 percent of the time in shared residential parenting families, research indicates many positive results. How are these children and their parents faring? In what way, if any, do divorced parents who share residential parenting differ from parents whose children live almost exclusively with their mother? How stable are shared residential parenting plans?”

Dr. Nielsen’s study states: “First, shared residential custody is becoming more prevalent. Until recently only five percent to seven percent of children lived at least one third of time with their father. Most lived exclusively with their mother, spending four to five nights a month at most in their father’s home, compared to 30 percent of the children whose divorced parents live in Wisconsin, and likewise, in Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden.”

In Bermuda, 85 percent of children from separated/divorced parents lived exclusively with their mothers, according to the 2000 Census. Many are only allowed to spend every other weekend with their fathers, amounting to approximately 48 days per year.”

Secondly, the majority of people questioned in multiple surveys on custody believe children should live equally with both parents after divorce. Dr Nielsen highlights four rationales for shared parenting which indicate equal or better outcomes for children as compared to only maternal residence. First, children of divorce benefit mostly when their father is actively engaged in their lives, in a wide range of daily activities and when he has an authoritative rather than a permissive or authoritarian parenting style. Limiting the father’s time to weekends or brief weekday visits does not benefit children, as the activities that build strong parent-child bonding which promote authoritative parenting, are unlikely to occur. Routines such as cooking, running errands, preparing for school, homework, shopping, doing chores, and being together in spontaneous, unstructured ways are what is needed.

Second, when children live only with their mothers, the majority of fathers spend little of the “right kind” of high-quality, authoritative parenting time with them. The statistics suggest maternal residence and “every other weekend” with the father is not the best way to encourage or promote high-quality fathering time. Third, in maternal residence families, divorced fathers’ relationships with their children often grow weaker or deteriorate altogether. Dr Nielsen states: “(This) weakened or damaged bond leaves many children feeling that they have paid the greatest price for their parents’ divorce, which is the damaged or lost relationship with their father, thus, they feel a longing, which often continues into their adult years.

“The recent findings are not surprising given the meta-analysis of research since the 1990s, which found that most children’s relationship with their fathers worsened or ended altogether after their parents divorced”. Fourth, the ongoing amount of quality and durable time the child and father spend right after the separation is closely related and positively reflected many years later.

So how well do most children fare in shared parenting families? A four-year longitudinal study revealed that children after the divorce, who lived in dual residence, were better off academically, emotionally, and psychologically than the sole residence children. These children felt closer to both their parents and were less stressed, since they didn’t feel the need to be caring for their mothers. Having a closer relationship with both parents generally offset the negative impact of the parents’ conflict. Children’s impacts were worse for those who rarely got to spend time with their father, but not on those in dual residence. In a more recent study, shared parenting children were less depressed, had fewer health and stress related illness problems, were less aggressive and had fewer behavioural problems. They were more satisfied with their living arrangement than those in sole residence.

Almost 60 percent of mothers said the fathers were very involved in making everyday decisions about their children’s lives. Of these, Dr. Nielsen says “13 percent of the mothers wished the fathers were less involved. Further, 85 percent of shared parenting couples said they felt closer to their children than ever before, and the children had adapted well to living in two homes.

“Overall, across three decades of research, the children in shared residential custody have had equal or better outcomes on measures of emotional, behavioural, physical and academic well-being”. With these constructive changes, our children will not be fed into the negative culture of gangs, drugs and violence, which other studies, going back 90 years, have shown that the formation of gangs were mostly due to the breakdown of the family. Dr Nielsen highlights that spending time with the children is more important than just contributing to them financially. In order for the above to occur, ChildWatch will continue to work towards the betterment of our children, and echo Dr. Nielsen’s facts as presented for the need of “Shared Parenting” legislation.

This will provide a greater safety net for our children, allowing our most impressionable minds to achieve their greatest potential towards being our future leaders. In addition, this will result in a greater good for our society.

EDWARD TAVARES

ChildWatch Co-founder

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Published February 10, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 10, 2012 at 7:14 am)

Save our children from cycle

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