Shared Parenting and Attachments What is so important about attachment? Outcomes of disrupted/insecure attachments Attachment and the development of children Shared Parenting Research Shared Parenting Research – Implications for Practice
What is so important about attachment? Attachment is a deep and enduring connection/strong emotional bond between a child and his/her caregiver. It is usually established during the first few years of life. It is an ongoing reciprocal relationship. The quality of the interactions between the child and carers is critical to promoting trusting and secure attachments
What is so important about attachment? (cont’d) Attachment influences the child’s view of themselves and others. Secure attachments provide children with a safe base to explore and increase opportunities for learning The quality of this relationship is one of the best predictors of optimal child development and is associated with:
What is so important about attachment? (cont’d) Development of healthy self esteem Language development, cognitive development, school success, behavioural adjustment, ability to form healthy and trusting relationships and ability to develop problem solving skills
Outcomes of disrupted/insecure attachments Difficulties forming relationships with peers and adults Increased risks for developing behavioural problems Deficits in empathy (evident at a young age) Lower academic competence
Outcomes of disrupted/insecure attachments (cont’d) Higher levels of hostility and aggression Low self esteem Lack of self control Intergenerational problems with promoting secure attachments with their own children Risk taking behaviours
Attachment and the Development of Children 0-1 year olds need predictable parenting and secure knowledge that their needs will be met. Begin to be attached at 3 months and demonstrate attachment at 8 months. They detect feelings in their primary carers. 1-2 years speech and thoughts predominantly egocentric. They begin to learn a sense of self. Model parents’ and others’ behaviours - may have poor relationships with peers.
Attachment and the Development of Children (cont’d) Infants primary drive is towards attachment not safety so they will accommodate to the parenting style they experience. Children can make sense of their experiences by believing the situation is their fault and they are inherently bad. 3-5 years See the world entirely from their own perspective therefore if parents are fighting they feel they are the cause. Anxious about basic needs being met and abandonment.
Attachment and the Development of Children (cont’d) 6-11 years Fear of losing both parents. Becoming more independent. Developing self confidence and self esteem. Conflicted loyalties often present. Adolescents - importance of peer relationships and other activities. Often moving away from family. They will usually want to have a say.
Shared Parenting- Research Smyth (2004) viable arrangement for a small group who self selected. Characteristics for success: Geographical proximity Ability of parents to co-operatively parent Child focussed arrangements
Shared Parenting- Research Smyth (2004) cont’d Commitment to making it work Family friendly work practices for both parents Financial comfort Shared confidence that the father is a competent parent
Shared Parenting- Research McIntosh and Chisholm (2008) (non Court based) Identified what factors lead to poor outcomes for children 1. Fathers low level of formal education 2. High, on going inter-parental conflict 3. Children’s overnight care substantially shared
Shared Parenting- Research McIntosh and Chisholm (2008) 4. Poor mother-child relationship 5. High acrimony ( psychological hostility) between parents 6. Child under 10 years (?due to the inability to cope with the conflict and interplay with attachment issues)
Shared Parenting- Research Note - Children and fathers benefited from shared care most when this occurred in an environment of low acrimony and co- operation with the other parent. Note – Older children (over 10yr) in shared care who were not caught in high conflict dynamics did not show evidence of poor mental health outcomes.
Shared Parenting- Research McIntosh and Chisholm (2008) (Court based) Five variables most highly associated with children’s poor mental health outcomes; 1. The child was unhappy with their living and care arrangements 2. The parent’s relationship with the child had deteriorated post Court
Shared Parenting- Research 3. The child lived in substantially shared care 4. One parent held concerns about the child’s safety with the other parent 5. The parents remained in high conflict
Shared Parenting- Research Other findings of interest (these findings are in line with other international studies): 28% in shared care going into Court and 46% in substantially shared care (5 nts/ftnt) on exit 70% of Ct orders by consent/30% judicial 73% of parents ‘almost never’ co-operated with the other parent (In 4 cases parents ‘never’ had any sort of contact) 39% of parents reported ‘never’ being able to protect the child from parental conflict
Shared Parenting- Research “Cautionary Note”: The data suggests that a significant proportion of these children emerged from Family Court proceedings with substantially shared care arrangements that occurred in an atmosphere that placed psychological strain on the child.
Shared Parenting- Research Implications for Practice These studies support the view that the children who do best are those who maintain frequent time with both parents who can co-operate and communicate It is the quality of the relationships between parents, and between parents and children, that matters for children’s wellbeing. (Smyth 2008)
Shared Parenting- Research Implications for Practice McIntosh and Chisholm (2008) Caution about the recommendation of equal time for infants and young children (under 4 years) There is a danger that children cannot develop an experience of reliable care with one or other parent due to frequent moves, and the strain of having to constantly monitor the ‘emotional weather’ in both parents’ households.
Conclusions Need for more research - current research based on small samples so careful interpretation required. Need to identify –what are the minimum conditions for an equal time arrangement, whether highly conflicted parents are more likely to try a shared care arrangement, is a shared care arrangement always contra- indicated in high conflict matters
Conclusions In terms of attachment issues we need to be cautious of shared care arrangements (even 5 nights a fortnight) with infants and young children (especially under 4yrs and possibly up to 10yrs). Research on shared care is less well established than that on attachment issues. Our practices must be informed by research.