I’m delighted that my article about fathers and overnight care is receiving such public attention. Over 1100 people have recommended the article on The Age website and I am being swamped with letters from fathers who are hopeful it might bring about some change in the current misguided policy. Here’s the article, for anyone who missed it: www.theage.com.au/national/empty-days-lonely-nights-20140428-37e3e.html
Unfortunately we were forced to delete the story of the father which originally headed up this article due to legal threats – despite there being no legal reason for doing so.
I’ve also been involved in many discussions on radio which have highlighted how grossly unfair it has been that fathers are now expected to be totally involved in the care of their infant children from birth onwards, sharing the nurturing, changing nappies, pushing the prams, doing night feeds when possible. Their fatherly devotion and competency is constantly celebrated. Yet if the relationship with the mother ends, she’s entitled to shove the man right out of the lives of his children, leaving him grovelling to achieve a few hours in their presence.
Overnight care is so rarely given to fathers of these young children whilst children regularly spend nights with all sorts of other people in their lives – grandmothers, other relatives, babysitters and so on. The policy has simply never made sense. It’s appalling it has taken so long to be challenged.
It’s important now that the two academic papers which led to the current review of this policy are widely circulated. The first is a consensus statement endorsed by 110 leading international experts – Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A consensus report – which was published in February in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law.
This article, written by Richard Warshak, analyses existing research and finds that infants commonly develop attachment relationships with more than one caregiver and concludes that in normal circumstances children are likely to do better if they have overnight contact with both parents and that depriving young children of the opportunity to stay overnight with their fathers could compromise the quality of developing father-child relationships.
The same journal has also published a fascinating article by Linda Nielsen: Woozles: Their Role in Custody Law Reform, Parenting Plans and Family Court – an article about how social science research can be used to distort public policy. Linda Nielsen is a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Her article is extremely critical of Australian research which influenced overnight policy of pre-schoolers in the family court system not only in Australia but across the world.
I’d strongly recommend you read both these articles and circulate them widely.