May 18, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
As I’ve mentioned before, Dr. Lisa Blankenau’s 2012 presentation to the seminar for Nebraska’s judges is not only at odds with the science on children’s well-being post-divorce, it’s at odds with itself. Time and again, she recommends the marginalization of one parent in the lives of the children and, although she never uses the word, we all understand that, in the overwhelming majority of situations, that parent is Dad.
Indeed, Blankenau herself seems to have recommended as much by her affirmative citation of non-existent “studies” plumping for the “Approximation Rule,” according to which, parenting time post-divorce would reflect parenting time during marriage. As the ALI’s “Principles” on the matter make clear, parenting time is defined generally as what mothers tend to do, with what fathers tend to do specifically excluded from consideration. In short, the AR is a rule to further privilege mothers in parenting time decisions and, as Dr. Richard Warshak pointed out, understood to be such by those commenting on it.
Unsurprisingly, Blankenau moved on from there to further recommend the marginalization of fathers in the lives of children aged 0 – six years old. She did that by recommending against overnight visitations for the “non-primary” parent, i.e. Dad. But – and this is where her presentation moves from contradicting the science of children’s well-being to the downright strange – she also provides the odd passing reference to the need of children for real relationships with their fathers.
For example, of children aged 3 – 6, she rightly says “Strong, positive relationships with both parents is extremely important so they can model appropriate behaviors and begin to build sex-role identities.” But nowhere does Blankenau suggest how those “strong, positive relationships” with their fathers might come about. After all, when the child has seen Dad rarely for the first 3 – 6 years of its life and never spent a night in his care, its relationship with him is very likely to be neither strong nor positive. In fact, it’s most likely to not exist at all. As research by people like Dr. Susan Stewart and Dr. Kathryn Edin’s analysis of the data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being study have demonstrated, fathers who are so marginalized in their children’s lives tend to become more and more remote from them.
How does Blankenau figure that, having – at her recommendation - seen so little of their fathers for all those years, the kids will suddenly establish those “strong, positive relationships” with them? She doesn’t say.
The same holds true for her true statement that “Children recover more quickly from (sic) trauma of divorce when they maintain close ties to their fathers.” Again, how do they “maintain close ties to their fathers” if a judge has followed Blankenau’s own recommendations and refused to allow them to spend much time with the man and none at all overnight? Again, Blankenau entirely fails to square her own remarks promoting father-child time together with her stance against exactly that.
Dismissing applicable social science as she does, Blankenau moves on to shared parenting and repeats one of the main fallacies pointed out by Dr. Linda Nielsen in her article about conflictual parents and parenting time orders. According to Blankenau, only parents who chose a shared parenting arrangement have successful outcomes, while those who had it ordered by a judge did not. Again, as Nielsen made clear, the science suggests otherwise. And again, Blankenau cites no evidence for her assertion.
Just in case she hasn’t convinced us of her anti-father bias, Blankenau has this to say about domestic violence:
Both mothers and children are at greater risk if there is a history of domestic violence.
That’s true of course, but what about fathers and children? Do mothers never commit domestic violence? What about child abuse? Yes, women commit at least as much DV as do men, but in Blankenau’s world, it’s not worth mentioning? Child abuse? More of the same. Mothers abuse children about twice as much as do fathers, but naturally, Blankenau gives them a pass, never mentioning the fact to the judges charged with acting in the best interests of children.
Then there’s this doozy:
The level of conflict between parents has consistently been shown to be the greatest factor in the success [or lack of (sic)] in (sic) any parenting arrangement.
Hmm. I just spent three blog posts on Dr. Nielsen’s debunking of that very concept. Having analyzed all the studies on parental conflict, parenting orders and children’s well-being, Nielsen concluded thus:
In sum, the best research currently available suggests that the quality of the parent– child relationship is more closely linked than parental conflict or the quality of the coparenting relationship to children’s outcomes, with the exception of the most extreme forms of conflict to which some children are exposed… Still, the data strongly support the idea that the quality of the parent– child relationship is the best predictor of future outcomes for the children.
It is exactly that – the quality of the father-child relationship – that Blankenau does so much to damage by her anti-father bias and her flawed notions about the science of child well-being following divorce.
Nielsen could have been speaking directly to Blankenau when she wrote,
In other words, the role of conflict has too often been exaggerated and should not be the determining factor in child custody decisions or in regard to JPC arrangements except in those situations where the children need protection from an abusive or negligent parent.
The same holds true for this:
Given these findings, we can fine tune our “woozle alert” systems so we are less likely to be misled by data that have been cherry-picked, misrepresented, exaggerated, or only partially re-ported to support only one position on conflict, coparenting, and custody plans. With a more finely tuned alert system, we can better serve the interests of the millions of children whose parents are no longer living together.
With “education” like this, it’s little wonder Nebraska’s judges are issuing the types of parenting orders they are. The anti-dad crowd seems to have control over what messages those judges hear on the most important aspect of their jobs - children’s welfare.
Tomorrow we’ll see just how far they’re willing to go to achieve their goal of maternal care of children at the expense of both dads and kids.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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