Among the many shockingly dishonest articles on parental alienation I’ve commented on in the past, two, one in the Washington Post and another by NBC, took aim at a program designed to reduce the awful consequences of severe alienation. That program is called Family Bridges and the articles were scurrilous in the extreme.
Among many other shortcomings, they interviewed kids who’d been through the FB workshop but who’d relapsed into their previous alienated behavior. Their comments on the workshop weren’t favorable. Needless to say, the article failed to interview a single kid who’d had a good experience at FB.
So it’s worthwhile that Dr. Richard Warshak has included a section of his latest paper on a study that was conducted on Family Bridges and the kids and parents who’ve taken part in the program. That study tells a lot about the efficacy of the workshop, but it also tells us more about the amazing dishonesty of the articles about it. Suffice it to say that, at the time the articles were published, the study had been completed, but, predictably, the writers managed to avoid reading the study or interviewing anyone who had.
So how did Family Bridges measure up? First the study asked the children to rate their experience there.
Most of the children began the experience with predominantly negative expectations, but eighty-nine percent felt better about the workshop at the end. At the conclusion of the workshop, only four percent indicated that they felt “very negative” about the workshop, eighteen percent “somewhat negative,” and seventy-eight percent positive about the experience. Two-thirds of the children rated the workshop as “good” or “excellent,” twenty-five percent rated it as “fair,” and eight percent rated it as “poor.” Even among the children who did not rate the workshop positively, most rated the workshop leaders positively as treating the children with respect (ninety-five percent) and kindness (ninety-six percent).
Family Bridges has two main goals – helping children better adapt to the conditions placed on them by court orders and improving parent-child relationships. So it makes sense to measure the effectiveness of the workshop with regard to those two goals.
Compared with their behavior before the workshop, by the end, children were perceived as significantly more willing to cooperate with custody orders. Before the workshop, the previously rejected parents reported that only fifteen percent of the children cooperated with the orders “a lot” or “moderately.” By the end of the workshop, the percent of perceived cooperation rose to ninety-four percent as rated by parents, and ninety-six percent as rated by professionals, a statistically significant and large improvement.
Importantly, those ratings were done by previously targeted parents. Clearly, they think the program made a vast improvement in their children’s ability to cooperate with court orders.
By the end of the workshop the children were significantly less alienated, as indicated in ratings by the parents, children, and professional workshop leaders. The parents and children perceived the workshop as helping to improve their relationship skills and the quality of the parent–child relationship. Parents and professionals most frequently rated the parent–child relationships as “much better” after the workshop, and children most frequently rated the relationships as “somewhat better.” Combining the “much better” and “somewhat better” ratings, parents rated ninety-nine percent of the relationships as improved, professionals rated ninety-four percent of the relationships as improved, and children rated seventy-four percent of the relationships as improved.
Again, those findings strongly indicate dramatic changes for the better in the more important of the two Family Bridges goals. What’s not to like?
Well, if you’re opposed to non-custodial fathers being able to fight back against parental alienation, there’s a lot to dislike. If you oppose children having meaningful relationships with both parents following divorce, you’ll certainly dislike the reality of Family Bridges. If your anti-father bias leads you to claim that the very idea of parental alienation is suspect, then you’ll pen articles that are intentionally misleading on the subject.
But no more can principled discourse ignore either parental alienation or its effective treatment. To the doctrinaire, that’s a big disappointment. To the rest of us, it’s the best of news.