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AFCC REGIONAL TRAINING CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 2007. INSTITUTE: THE PARENTING COORDINATION PROCESS FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE (Module 2) Christine Coates, J.D. Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D. .

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afcc regional training conference september 2007
AFCC REGIONAL TRAINING CONFERENCESEPTEMBER 2007

INSTITUTE: THE PARENTING COORDINATION PROCESS FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE(Module 2)Christine Coates, J.D. Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D.

slide2
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCECONFLICT AFTER SEPARATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR PARENTING COORDINATION
  • Conflict expected in first 2-3 years (see Ahrons, Maccoby & Mnookin, Wallerstein & Kelly, Hetherington, et. al. Wallerstein et.al)
  • High conflict: Estimates from 10 - 25 %
  • Long standing and enduring pattern of behavior/conflict
prevalence
Prevalence

Divorce/

Separation

Low

Conflict

Acute Reaction Period

0-4 Years

Conflict

Stabilizers

High Conflict

Perpetuators

family dynamics in separation and divorce conflict post separation implications for pc
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCECONFLICT POST-SEPARATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR PC
  • Other processes have failed to resolve issues
  • Exhausted resources: Have had numerous lawyers, multiple agencies, therapists (“shopping” for the right one)
  • Prone to litigation, numerous attendances at court, aka “frequent flyers”
  • Can have one enraged, one disengaged
family dynamics in separation and divorce a ssessment of conflict
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEASSESSMENT OF CONFLICT
  • Need to consider degree and nature of conflict
  • Need to consider/assess the impasse; where it comes from; degree and type of conflict
  • Garrity and Baris (1994); clinical tool
  • Trend to develop tools so as to better identify best intervention based on level of conflict
family dynamics in separation and divorce sources of impasse johnston campbell 88
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCESources of Impasse: Johnston & Campbell, ‘88

Three Levels of Impasse

  • Concentric Circle depiction
  • Three levels impasse:
    • External
    • Interactional
    • Intrapsychic
family dynamics in separation and divorce sources of impasse johnston campbell 881
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCESources of Impasse: Johnston & Campbell, ‘88

EXTERNAL-SOCIAL

  • Tribal warfare (friends, neighbors, family, new partners)
  • Role of mental health, professionals, lawyers, educators
  • Multiple allegations to CPS, police
  • Role of court/judge; litigation
family dynamics in separation and divorce sources of impasse johnston campbell 882
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCESources of Impasse: Johnston & Campbell, ‘88

INTERACTIONAL

  • Legacy of a destructive marriage
  • Ambivalent separation – shattered dreams
  • Traumatic separation – negative reconstruction
family dynamics in separation and divorce sources of impasse johnston campbell 883
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCESources of Impasse: Johnston & Campbell, ‘88

INTRAPSYCHIC

  • Vulnerability to loss
    • Prior traumatic loss
    • Separation-individuation conflicts (diffuse, counter- and oscillating dependency)
  • Vulnerability to humiliation/shame
    • Mild – specific acknowledgment
    • Moderate – projects total blame
    • Severe – paranoia
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS
  • Dispute/conflict stress exacerbates existing characteristics, personality structure, defense/coping mechanisms
  • May function adequately in other areas in life
  • 60% of high conflict parents have personality disorders
  • Most common traits/disorders: Narcissistic, Histrionic, Borderline, Paranoid, Anti-social
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS

THREE DIMENSIONS

  • Thinking: perceiving, interpreting selves, others, events
  • Feeling/ Impulse Control (Modulation of Affect):

-ability to manage, restrain impulses

- range, intensity, stability, modulation,

appropriateness

  • Interpersonal Functioning & Parenting:
    • style and nature of relationships
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders2
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS

Thinking:

  • Idealization – devaluation
  • Rigid VS Flexible
  • Inability to take another’s perspective
  • Externalize blame, deny responsibility, complaints
  • Distort reality, suspicious, even paranoid
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders3
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS

Feeling

  • Exaggerations, drama
  • Childlike, charming, seductive
  • Fluctuating moods; unpredictable
  • Poor impulse control; outbursts
  • Critical, hostile, disparaging, attacking
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders4
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS

Interpersonal:

  • Needy, demanding, high expectations
  • Strong sense of entitlement, grandiosity
  • Intimacy limited, shallow
  • Projection
  • Oppositional, power/control struggles
  • High defensive, easily offended
  • Little insight into own part, role in conflict
family dynamics in separation and divorce high conflict personality disorders5
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEHIGH CONFLICT: PERSONALITY DISORDERS

Parenting:

  • Emotionally and developmentally similar to children
  • Unable to separate their needs/feelings, experiences from child’s
  • Over identify with child, enmeshment
  • May depend over rely on child, parentified child
structural transition from nuclear to binuclear
Structural Transition From Nuclear To Binuclear
  • Adequate functioning in each subsystem
  • Adequate functioning between subsystem
  • A set timeshare schedule
parallel parenting
Parallel Parenting

Low conflict/low communication

  • Emotional disengagement
  • Kelly and Emery (2003) - children’s adjustment similar to cooperative if respective households adequate
  • PC as “interface”
      • Change versus management
the tragic legacy of the litigation context
The tragic legacy of the Litigation Context
  • Litigants don’t make good coparents
      • Representation - advocacy
      • Distrust
      • Sabotage
      • Win/lose
      • Chaos
      • Unilateral action
      • In the name of the child
      • Focus on the problem being the other parent -advesaries
      • Depleted resources - financial,emotional
coparent training in the pc process
Coparent training in the PC Process
  • Clear demarcation of new ADR process
    • Let go of the legal/adversarial process
    • The rules are changing
    • You don’t have to work with the other parent, just with the PC and the rules
    • Disengagement with the coparent, moving towards functional engagement
      • Manageability, protection
boundaries
Boundaries
  • Two ways to get into trouble with boundaries:
  • Faulty Rules
  • Failure to maintain Boundaries
slide25
Faulty Rules
    • Explicit, detailed policies and procedures as a tool for setting appropriate boundaries. The rules of the relationship.
        • Slippage do to your stuff and/or the client’s stuff becomes evident when you rules are violated
slide26
Failure to Maintain boundaries
    • Challenges come in two ways
      • Pulls - idealization, need, money, celebrity
        • More seductive, gratifying
      • Pushes - devaluation, Demand, threat, criticism, questioning
        • Hard to stand up to
slide27
Limit setting, training the clients
    • What behavioral theory tells us
      • Clearly defined expectations of behavior
      • Consistent response
      • Timely response
      • Compassionate firmness
      • Depersonalize
      • Consequence fits the violation
disengagement structuring coparenting in h c situations
Disengagement: Structuring Coparenting in H-C situations
  • The PC is the interface between the parents -
    • Titrating the communication/contact so that it is functional and manageable
        • Face to face meetings - structure
        • Telephone conference calls
        • Email - timely, can control receipt, response, documented
        • Fax, letter
        • No contact, except through PC
functions of the pc role
Functions Of The PC Role
  • Alternative court-sanctioned dispute resolution
      • Timely
      • Proactive
      • Without judgment
      • Establishing protocols, reciprocity
case management
Case Management
  • Structure the coparenting process
    • Specifying, interpreting and modifying the parenting plan
    • Reduce the need for information sharing and decision making
    • Coordinate professional interventions
      • Collaborative teams
    • Documentation
monitoring and limit setting
Monitoring And Limit setting
  • Behavioral models
    • Objective, Immediate feedback, consistent response, criteria for consequences
  • Sanctions
  • Use of the Court
coparent work
Coparent Work
  • “Therapeutic” case management
  • Diagnose the impasse
      • The context surrounding the coparents
  • Spousal relationship vs. parental relationship
  • Reconstructing images of each other
  • Selfish altruism
family dynamics in separation and divorce
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE

CHILDREN’S ADJUSTMENT TO SEPARATION & DIVORCE

family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment

DEBATE

  • Discrepancies in literature and research data re: divorce adjustment
  • Debate: Wallerstein VS most others (e.g.,

Hetherington, Kelly, Fabricus, Braver, Emery)

  • Substantial risk VS overwhelming resilience?
slide36

FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment

Discrepancies Reconciled? (Emery, Amato)

  • Divorce associated with greater risk AND
  • Most children are resilient AND
  • Many report substantial and continuing pain
  • Can be both PAIN AND RESILIENCE
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment

OVERVIEW: 5 KEY CONCLUSIONS FROM RESEARCH

  • Divorce creates a number of stressors for children and families, AND
  • Divorce is a risk factor for psychological problems among children, BUT
  • Resilience is the normative outcome of divorce for children, STILL
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment 5 key conclusions
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: 5 Key Conclusions
  • There are important “costs of coping”

– painful feelings, memories, events AND

5. Individual differences in children’s divorce outcome are influenced by qualities of post-divorce family life, family process variables, especially:

family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment process variables
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Process Variables
  • quality of child’s relationship with both parents;
  • mental health and adjustment of the parents;
  • parenting competence of both parents
  • degree of parental conflict and how the children are involved in it

e. family’s economic standing

family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment stressors
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Stressors

#1. Stressors:

  • Economic Hardship
  • Physical Changes:
        • relocation to another jurisdiction common
        • residential move, sometimes multiple moves
        • school changes
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment stressors1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Stressors
  • Loss of important relationships:
    • peer relationship changes
    • loss of contact with both parents; often abrupt
    • 18-25% have no contact with fathers 2-3 yrs after divorce
    • mother often returns to work; mother’s overwhelmed, less time for children
    • explanation for separation
  • Remarriage and repartnering:
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment process variables1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Process Variables

#5. Key Conclusions: Family Process Variables:

  • Parents’ Conflict: before, during and after separation
  • Parents’ Psychological Adjustment
  • Parenting Competence
    • Authoritative VS Authoritarian VS Permissive
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment process variables2
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Process Variables
    • Mothers: poorer parenting (less warm, more rejecting, harsher punishment)
    • Fathers: withdraw from kids, more intrusive interactions with kids
  • Parent-Child Relationships
    • impact of conflict
    • impact of parenting
    • relates to loss, absence, contact
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment father loss absence contact
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Father Loss, Absence & Contact

- father absence literature

  • negative impact growing up without fathers
  • father’s can parent as well as mothers; parent differently
  • generally positive impact of NCP on child adjustment when NCP remains involved, provides guidance, discipline, supervision, involvement in school (meta-analyses)
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment father loss absence contact1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Father Loss, Absence, & Contact
  • active, competent and involved Dad -> ++ adjustment
  • good Father/child relationship related to positive outcomes
  • good Dad/Child relationship buffers compromised Mom/Child relationship
  • involvement in variety of activities across domains
  • frequency of time with NRP NOT best predictor
  • quality of time is better predictor
family dynamics in separation and divorce children s adjustment father loss absence contact2
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCEChildren’s Adjustment: Father Loss, Absence, & Contact
  • Retrospective Studies (Emery, Fabricus, Laumann-Billings, Parkinson et. al.)
  • Frequency of Father-child Contact & Adjustment
  • Divorced & non-divorced do better having warm and positive relationships with two involved parents
  • Negative effects of divorce mitigated by good relationships with two involved parents
  • Less robust differences for depression, anxiety and self esteem
parenting timeshare plans
Parenting Timeshare Plans
  • General considerations for timeshare
      • AFCC “Shared Parenting” booklet/AAML Model
      • For younger children, short separations from both parents
      • Regular interactions in diverse contexts
      • Overnights (controversy)
      • Equal time not necessary - roughly 30+% is fine, if distributed well
general considerations
General Considerations
  • Continuity with both parents is extremely important
    • Psychological relationships with both
    • Psychosocial development and development of other relationships
    • Routines are very important for younger children
high conflict considerations for transitions
High Conflict Considerations For Transitions
  • Transitions at day care
  • Use of babysitter or extended family
  • Parent counselor or mediator
  • Highly structured parenting plan
  • Use of daily journals/email
understanding the child
Understanding The Child
  • Developmental concerns
    • See AFCC booklet
  • Attachment concerns
      • Secure/insecure
      • gatekeeping
  • Conflict related concerns
  • Temperament concerns
      • Continuum from vulnerable to resilient
evolving parenting plans
Evolving Parenting Plans
  • Setting expectations
      • Relationships with both parents are meaningful and help shape the child’s emotional and overall development
      • The continuity/change tension
      • Developmental considerations
        • Up to school age, school age, adolescence
  • Constructing a collaborative process
      • Timelines for review(s)
      • Criteria for review
        • parenting focused, child focused, coparenting focused
      • Procedure for review
slide53
REASONS FOR AND AGAINST
  • Make decision carefully. Do not rush to include
    • Assessment phase VS for specific issue
  • Consider risks/benefits: “Do no harm” VS minimize harm
  • May assist with parents’ confidence and trust in PC
  • May detract from parents’ confidence and trust in PC
slide54
REASONS FOR AND AGAINST
  • Children deserve to be heard
  • Research that kids do better when they have input-- perceived control
  • What they want is not equal to what is best for them
  • Children don’t always make good decisions
slide55
REASONS FOR AND AGAINST
  • Interpret and weigh, not only obtain child’s input:
    • consider their competence
    • consider overall functioning
    • consider factors that detract from that competence
    • consider views/input/preferences re: what?
    • consider context i.e., high conflict divorce
    • consider how voluntary the input is
    • pressured? alignments? alienation?
types of situations issues
TYPES OF SITUATIONS/ISSUES
  • Changes in usual residential schedule not mandate of PC
  • Activities/Camp: What? Who attends? Parent behavior?
  • Change of School
  • Special events requiring temporary changes to schedule
  • Small change to usual schedule (e.g. adding in Sun o/n)?
slide57
To assess (and/or arbitrate) child’s need to attend therapy/decide if child sees therapist child’s need for therapist or not
  • Short term education/coaching (not ongoing therapy) e.g., managing parental conflict, separation, peer relationships
  • “Therapeutic access”; parent-child reintegration, parent-child “mediation”, education and/or coaching
introducing process
INTRODUCING PROCESS
  • How you begin will depend on age of child and what they know
  • Prior to seeing child talk to parents about:
    • What child knows and does not know
    • What the child-related issues are
    • What the child is like (likes, dislikes, interests, temperament, maturity, personality, academically, socially, etc.)
slide59
Do family interview:
    • Socializing stage
    • What does the child know about coming?
    • Have each parent give child permission:

1. to be open and honest?

2. to not worry about parents’ feelings (they can take care of themselves)?

    • Parents to promise/reassure that they will not question children afterwards
interviewing considerations
Interviewing Considerations
  • To assess level of thinking/comprehension
  • Ask simple questions they can answer
  • Distinguish: “I don’t know” VS “I don’t understand” VS “I don’t want to say”
slide61
CONFIDENTIALITY
  • Tricky Issue
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep
confidentiality
CONFIDENTIALITY
  • Does child want PC to share the information with parent?
  • Explore topics child wants kept private from parents
  • Does child want help from PC to speak with the parent about a sensitive topic?
confidentiality1
CONFIDENTIALITY
  • Use discretion
  • If necessary:
    • present themes to parents, not specifics
    • don’t identify specific child as source of information
    • Seek multiple sources of information
interviewing tips and techniques
INTERVIEWING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

“Give me your evidence and don’t be nervous or I’ll have you executed on the spot”

`Lewis Caroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

how children think
HOW CHILDREN THINK
  • 6 – 11 Year Olds:
    • Concrete, literal (in comprehension and response)
    • Only answer questions you ask
    • Difficulty with hypothetical: “what ifs” (are likely to guess)
    • Never ask child to guess
    • Avoid “Do you remember…
    • Don’t ask “why” questions: perceive blame, responsibility (egocentric)
    • Can’t project time: e.g., “What would it be like to have 5 days with….?”
slide66
12 and older:
    • Developing abstract reasoning skills
    • Better conception/sense of time
    • Often seek fairness and justice
    • May focus on own needs
slide67
CONTINUUM OF SUGGESTIVENESS IN QUESTIONS
  • Open-ended
  • Focused/Direct
  • Leading questions
slide68
OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
  • Come from child’s free recall memory
  • Most accurate, least amount of information
  • Dependent on age, ability, trauma
open ended questions
OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
  • “Do you know who I am?”
  • “Do you know why you have come here today?”
  • “What did your mom/dad tell you?”
  • “Do you know why your mom/dad live in two different homes?”
  • “What did mom/dad tell you?”
  • “Tell me what you do for fun with mom/dad
open ended questions1
OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
  • “Tell me more about ….”
  • “And then what happened?”
  • “What happened next?”
  • “Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean. Can you try again?”
  • “Before you said…..Can you tell me more about that?”
open ended questions2
OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
  • “What do you think might be important for me to know”
  • “Is there anything you want me to tell your parents?”
  • “What advice do you have for your parents?”
  • “Pretend I am the magic genie from Aladdin. What are your 3 wishes?”
  • “If you had a magic wand and could change something about mom/dad/brother/sister/self, what would it be?”
  • At end, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” “Do you have any questions?
focusing questions
FOCUSING QUESTIONS
  • “Wh” questions
  • Direct attention to specific topic (details):
      • New partner
      • Rules and routines
      • Parental conflict
      • What happens when parent gets mad?
      • Schedule, transitions
      • Activities (type and both parents’ presence)
      • Risk/harm (punishment, domestic violence, alcohol)
focusing questions1
FOCUSING QUESTIONS
  • Elaborating on child’s input
  • Multiple choice questions: limit to 3
  • Explore whether routine or exception
  • Avoid bias: Give all options, not just the ones that you think support your hypothesis (2 choices, feel he/she must pick one)
  • Yes/no question: Use on limited basis, followed by “Tell me more about that.”
leading questions
LEADING QUESTIONS
  • Avoid them
  • Avoid coercive questions
      • Eg., “You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?
      • You’re not making that up, are you?
      • Don’t you want to live with your mother more?
      • Doesn’t your father make you feel sorry for her?
more practice tips
MORE PRACTICE TIPS
  • Use child’s words; not yours
  • Be reassuring:
    • “Is it hard to talk about that”?
    • “I can see you are struggling with that?”
    • “Try, it’s ok to talk here.”
more practice tips1
MORE PRACTICE TIPS
  • Short, simple VS run-on sentences with multiple questions
  • Try to finish one topic and at time
  • Try not to move back and forth in chronological time
  • Give some indication/signal of shifting topics
  • Allow time (count to 10) before you rephrase or ask question again, or go on to new question
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • Can be more or less conflict after VS before separation
  • More sophisticated research on effects of conflict:
    • intensity of it
    • how the child is involved
    • role/function he/she plays
  • No studies that examine/identify threshold of conflict necessary to undermine the benefits to children of continuing contact with both parents
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children2
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • Varied findings likely due to different measures of conflict and adjustment
  • Failure to differentiate between types of conflict; parental styles of conflict resolution, and extent of direct exposure to anger and conflict
  • Conflict most destructive when it is overt, kids used as messengers and are directly exposed
  • Low conflict is a predictor of good adjustment
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children3
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • Impact of post-divorce conflict on later adjustment in young adults—mixed results
  • Due to pre or post marital conflict?
  • Kids from high conflict marriages whose parents separate do better as young adults than those from high conflict marriages that do not separate
  • Kids in low conflict marriages, whose parents’ divorce do less as young adults VS kids in high conflict marriages whose parents’ divorce
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children4
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Child’s Adjustment Related To:

  • Child’s age at the time of separation
  • Gender
  • Temperament

strategies for managing stress learned earlier in life

family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children5
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Johnston & Campbell ’88

  • 4 principle methods children use to cope:
  • MANEUVERING
  • masters at manipulating their parents to get their needs met
  • slowly learn to take care of themselves first and always
  • fail to learn empathy or compassion
  • become skilled at manipulating others for their own gain
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children6
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

2.EQUILIBRATING

  • diplomats par excellence—mediators
  • capable of withstanding high degree of conflict
  • try desperately to keep everything under control.
  • appear composed, well organized and competent, while underneath perpetually anxious
  • learn to hide their feelings and to seek safe ways to stay out of parental disputes
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children7
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

3. MERGING

  • enmeshed in the contest between their parents
  • lose sense of self: unable to identify own thoughts and opinions
  • arrested at the developmental level of 6 – 8 year old
  • continue to side with the parent they are with more of the time--imitate
  • split their identities in half and have little individual sense of themselves
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children8
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • DIFFUSING
  • the most dysfunctional and disorganized
  • respond to parents conflict same way they respond to other forms of stress
  • not strong enough to cope with high conflict
  • unable to develop adequate coping mechanisms; few resources
  • shatter emotionally—fall apart
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children9
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Johnston and Roseby ’97

  • Disruptions of normal development due to exposure to contradictory realities of right and wrong
  • Belief in self and competence undermined
  • Distortions of information to maintain own view point
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children10
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Hetherington, Hagen and Anderson (‘89): 3 TYPES

  • Aggressive/Insecure:
    • low self esteem, poor academic performance
    • aggressive impulsive behaviour in home and school; bully others (modeling)
    • 70% unable to preserve close relationships
    • boy to girl ratio -> 3:1
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children11
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • Opportunistic and Competent:
    • Reminiscent of Johnston & Campbell’s equilibrating
    • very influential and calming, even faced with high conflict
    • diplomatic and able to make friends easily
    • difficulty maintaining any depth of peer or adult relationships/attachments
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children family
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN FAMILY
  • Caring and competent:
    • well adjusted prior to separation
    • often have to take care of younger sibs
    • able to establish and maintain healthy relationships
    • characterized by affection and compassion
    • mostly girls raised by single parent mothers
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children family1
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN FAMILY

Summary

  • Most children do not exhibit clinically significant symptoms/disorders over the long-term
  • Protective factors:
    • child’s temperament (resiliency, problem-solving skills)
    • quality of social supports (teachers, daycare) and familial relationships (with at least one parent; sibs, grandparents, other family)
    • consistent, authoritative parenting
family dynamics in separation and divorce impact of parental conflict on children12
FAMILY DYNAMICS IN SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
  • Parental fighting years later -> children 2-5x more likely to develop emotional and/or behavioral problems
  • Most common diagnoses:
    • anxiety disorder (NOS)
    • oppositional defiant disorder
    • adjustment disorder (anxious or depressed mood)
    • conduct disorders
the model a family focused intervention
Family-focused intervention presented in Johnston, Walters & Friedlander (2001) and Sullivan & Kelly (2001)

Careful assessment

Stipulation or Court Order

Therapeutic work with Aligned Parent (AP)

Therapeutic work with the Rejected Parent (RP)

Therapeutic work with the Alienated Child (AC)

Therapeutic work with selected combinations of family members

CASE MANAGEMENT

The Model: A Family-Focused Intervention
other interventions
Other Interventions
  • Internet survey of 1172 Mental Health and Legal professionals indicates most frequently recommended intervention for alienated child is individual therapy for child and for parents (Bow, Gould & Flens, 2006).
  • Other interventions
    • Rand & Warshak (2006)
    • Freeman, Abel, Cowper-Smith & Stein (2004)
lessons learned the intervention
Lessons Learned: The Intervention
  • More complex even than the complex model we outlined
  • Reinforce:
    • Importance of comprehensive understanding and formulation
    • Importance of including all relevant individuals in the intervention
    • Importance of collaborative Team and Team Leader
lessons learned reality
Lessons Learned: Reality
  • The model is often neither practical nor realistic
    • Time, money, human resources
    • Interventions that conform to the model vs. interventions that are informed by the model
    • Intervention with and without the benefit of a Custody Evaluation
    • Intervention with and without the benefit of the “Case Management” legal structure and support afforded by Court Orders
lessons learned outcomes
Lessons Learned: Outcomes
  • Results have been disappointing from various perspectives
    • Amount of time required for the treatment
    • Progress and outcomes that sustain involvement in treatment not quickly achieved
    • Need for patience when most other factors mitigate against patience
    • Especially true for RP and the goal of “reunification”
lessons learned reminder
Lessons Learned: Reminder
  • Emphasize that “…reunification with the rejected parent is not the primary goal of the intervention…
  • “…although it may be a consequence of achieving the primary goal.”
  • Defining the goals of the intervention
lessons learned reasonable expectations
Lessons Learned: Reasonable Expectations
  • It is therefore important to:
    • Select appropriate cases
    • Formulate case-appropriate goals
    • Determine a reasonable timetable
  • Intervention as a diagnostic process
    • Identify areas of relative strength and weakness to specify where change might occur
    • Attention to one component may affect the other—The “bubble under the rug”
    • Open and flexible to revision of focus, goals, etc.
lessons learned alienation and estrangement
Lessons Learned: Alienation and Estrangement
  • Understanding the nature of the alienation and how it affects the intervention, the focus, the goals, and the definition of “success”
  • Realization that alienation and estrangement are not always easily distinguished concepts
    • Both alienation and estrangement are often present in the more difficult, unresponsive cases
    • This may limit goals
lessons learned alienation refined
Lessons Learned: Alienation Refined

Positive Relationship

Affinity

Alliance

Estranged------

Alienated-------Refusal to Contact

-Communicate Only

-Spends time with RP

Limited Contact

Regular time

Regular timeshare

lessons learned obstacles to progress
Lessons Learned: Obstacles to Progress
  • Recognition that each participant has a different agenda, more or less in their conscious awareness, when entering this work
  • Factors outside of awareness often drive this behavior
  • Appreciate and respect the role of these less conscious factors
  • These factors limit the usefulness of coaching and educative interventions and extend the time required to achieve goals
  • Dumb Spots and Blind Spots
  • These factors comprise an initial Wizard’s Sorting Hat for alienation cases
lessons learned the rejected parent
Lessons Learned: The Rejected Parent
  • Parenting behavior of the RP
    • Relationship capacity and parenting skills
      • Lacks warmth and empathy
      • Not attuned to child’s feelings and needs
      • Narcissistic
      • Controlling
      • Demanding
      • Authoritarian
    • A common and often fatal mistake is the failure to integrate the reality of the alienation into the RP’s interaction with the child, especially the effort to parent and discipline
      • “De-parented”--Role as parent undermined
      • Responsibility without authority
      • Parental “rights” vs. child’s feelings and needs
      • Learning trials vs. Extinction trials
    • The myth of “compensatory parenting”
lessons learned forcing contact
LessonsLearned: Forcing Contact
  • Forcing contact does not work…but sometimes it does
    • When the Moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars
  • May backfire
  • Will it create a more “secure base” for the child?
lessons learned the child
Lessons Learned- The Child

Framing the intervention to maintain focus on the child

  • Reasons why the child is at the center of the therapist’s concern
  • Timing/ pacing based on assessment and understanding of the child
  • Potential impact of intervention on the child
  • Uncovering the meaningful issues in the P/C relationships
  • Power Issues between parent and child
  • Shared control of the agenda
  • Safety issues
child s issues at time of reconnection
Child’s Issues at Time of Reconnection
  • Readiness/interest in reconnection (anxiety, anger, longing, sadness)
  • Child’s ability to manage experiences of vulnerability, loss, disappointment and depression (re RP or AP)
  • Child’s experience of parents’ ability to see his/her needs as separate from their own
    • How any obstructing and undermining behaviors by the AP are experienced by the child
    • Impact of parents’ mental health issues, substance abuse issues, etc. on child (presence of role reversal, enmeshment, counter-rejection)
child s history issues influencing the reconnection process
Child’s History: Issues Influencing the Reconnection Process
  • Child’s history of being parented/ attached to each parent
  • Child’s memories of how actively that parent was involved in caring for him/her prior to disruption
  • Child’s understanding of reasons for divorce and reactions to divorce for each family member
  • Child’s age when disruption in contact with parent occurred
  • Child’s understanding of the reasons for disruption of contact with parent/child’s response to the disruption
  • Child’s understanding of how the AP feels about the RP
child vulnerabilities at risk children
ChildVulnerabilities:At-Risk Children
  • Temperament- e.g. slow adapting, highly sensitive
  • Coping- few resources, “extratensive” style
  • History of separation anxiety/insecure attachments
  • High Dependency needs
  • Negative Feelings about school life
  • Negative Feelings about social life
  • History of being at center of inter-parental struggle or between very polarized households
  • Burdened & overpowered child (role reversal)
  • Abused child (psychological maltreatment)
protective factors for the child
ProtectiveFactors For The Child
  • Resilient Child- easy temperament, high IQ, self-efficacy, etc.
  • Secure attachment to one or more parents
  • Good relationships with extended family, including parents’ new partners
  • Good sibling relationships
  • Presence of relationships with neutral, supportive adults/community
  • Individual therapy for children
  • Economic stability
lessons learned the aligned parent
Lessons Learned: The Aligned Parent
  • Inclusion in treatment
    • To assess supportiveness of child having relationship with other parent
    • Clarify possible “Enmeshment”
    • Bring into focus possible “alienating behaviors”
    • To learn about view of child
    • Willingness/Openness to nudge child
  • Possible re-establishment of co-parenting alliance
lesson s learned problematic aligned parent
Lesson’sLearned: Problematic AlignedParent
  • “Enmeshment”
  • Emotionally fragile and needy
  • Role reversal
  • Indulges and empowers the child
  • Helpless in the face of the empowered child
  • Compromised ability to parent and discipline
lesson s learned structural interventions with alienated children
Lesson’s Learned: Structural Interventions with Alienated Children
  • These are the Court Orders that Specify the parenting plan and family interventions
      • Contact specified and non-discretionary
      • Clear specifications of therapeutic interventions
      • Case Management role essential
  • They are necessary, but not sufficient
      • You can’t succeed if you are not impeccable about them, but may not succeed even if you are
hard lesson 1
Hard Lesson #1
  • Must move families out of the legal-adversarial context
    • Litigants don’t make good coparents
    • Conflict is experienced by child as perpetrated by the rejected parent
    • The pressures to align are intensified
    • Can’t work when there is a custody dispute
        • Creating a collaborative professional system around the family is extremely difficult
hard lesson 2
Hard Lesson #2
  • Authority is elusive
      • Clear, detailed orders are nice, but try enforcing them
      • Special Master is a misnomer
      • Turning to the Court for help is a crap shoot
      • If you can’t deal with compliance issues, you’ve lost the case

Getting Johnnie to treatment

Getting Johnnie to the visit

  • Finding Ways to maintain authority
hard lesson 3
Hard Lesson #3
  • Legal Custody on paper is not worth the paper it’s written on
    • No Contact with the child, school, activities, etc.
    • No sharing of information
    • Marginalization
    • Mom doesn’t have to deal with dad anymore, why should I have to?
    • Mandate information exchange, coparent structures you would expect in shared legal custody
hard lesson 4
Hard Lesson # 4
  • Collaborative Professional teams don’t just form and run themselves
    • Finding the right professionals
    • Team essentials
        • Organization - goals, accountability
        • Leadership - hierarchy
        • Communication
        • Information control/loyalty
        • Loyalty
hard lesson 5
Hard Lesson #5

Sometimes all the kings horse and all the kings men…

Sometimes the least detrimental alternative is ending work on reunification

Keep child focused

Don’t get into blame and get punitive

interventions carry a cost, resistance can build to the

intervention

older children can be over it

when the intervention isn t working
When the Intervention Isn’t Working
  • Steps to closure
  • Doors left open
  • Parting messages
  • Mapping needs for treatment of individual family members
  • Monitoring for future possibilities
  • Who takes the blame for the failure?
domestic violence1
Domestic Violence
  • Effects on children
  • Traumatic response
  • Long term effects
  • Protective factors
violence and child adjustment
Violence And Child Adjustment
  • More symptoms in violent H-C than non-violent H-C
  • Higher rates of sibling violence
  • More parent-child violence
  • PTSD with repeated exposure to violence
  • Adolescence exposed to violence commit more crimes
family violence and parenting
Family Violence and Parenting
  • Violence impacts both parents negatively
  • More physical punishment, controlling authoritarian discipline, less use of reasoning
  • Abused mothers less warm, inconsistent, lax discipline, or coercive, power-assertive style
high conflict vs abuse violence
High Conflict Vs Abuse/Violence
  • Distinction between high conflict and abuse/violence
  • Power and control struggles common in high conflict non-true violence-type parents
conflict assessment scale based on garrity and baris 1994
Conflict Assessment Scale (based on Garrity and Baris 1994)

MODERATE

MINIMAL

INTENSE

SEVERE

MILD

  • Cooperative Co-parenting
  • Conflicts resolved between adults
  • Separate own needs from children’s
  • Validates, supports other parent to child
  • Occasionally berates other parent
  • Occasional verbal quarrels in front of child
  • Questions child re: personal life of other parent
  • Occasional attempts to form coalition with child against other parent
  • Verbal abuse; no history of violence
  • Loud quarrels in front of child
  • Denigration of other parent to child
  • Parent(s) in physical danger due to contact
  • Threats of violence, limiting access, litigation
  • Attempts to alienate child from other parent
  • Emotional endangerment of child
  • Endangerment or abuse of child.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Severe parental psychopathology
dv definition
DV Definition
  • FC Section 3044 (CA):
  • A person has perpetrated domestic violence when he or she is found by the court to have intentionally or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault, or to have placed a person in reasonable apprehension or imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another, or to have engaged in any behavior involving, but not limited to, threatening, striking, harassing, destroying personal property or disturbing the peace of another..”
broader definition
Broader Definition
  • Perpetrators of domestic violence exhibit a pattern of violence, threat, intimidation and coercive control over their coparent. They seek to maintain power and control over the other.
slide128
Psychological:
      • Cursing demeaning, yelling, taunting
      • Isolating, coercion, threats of harm
      • Stalking, harassing, inducing fear
  • Physical
      • Slapping, grabbing, shoving, twisting arm/hair
      • Kicking, punching, biting, throwing objects
      • Choking, using guns & knives, mutilation, murder
slide129
Sexual
      • Rape, unwanted sexual behavior, coercion
      • Harassment
  • Financial
      • Controlling purchases, witholding funds and information
  • Legal
      • Repeated initiation of litigation, threats
johnston and campbell s types of interpersonal violence among families disputing custody
JOHNSTON AND CAMPBELL’STYPES OF INTERPERSONALVIOLENCE AMONG FAMILIES DISPUTING CUSTODY
  • Ongoing or episodic male battering
  • Female – initiated violence
  • Male-controlling interactive violence
johnston and campbell 2
Johnston and Campbell (2)
  • Separation-engendered or post-divorce trauma
  • Psychotic or paranoid reactions
ongoing episodic male battering
Ongoing/Episodic Male Battering:
  • What we’re used to thinking of as domestic violence
  • Also known as intimate terrorism
  • Man has intolerable tension states and chauvinistic attitudes
  • Drug and alcohol use frequently involved
  • Woman usually does nothing to provoke assault
  • Most severe attacks; can be life-threatening
battering intimate terrorism
Battering-Intimate Terrorism
  • Intended to intimidate and control
  • Generally escalate with separation
  • Patterns continue after separation
emotional abuse in battering
Emotional Abuse in Battering
  • Cursing, yelling, humiliating
  • Isolating from family, friends
  • Checking up on whereabouts
  • False accusations of sexual infidelity
  • Monitoring of phone calls
  • No credit cards or checks
female initiated violence
Female-Initiated Violence
  • Aways initiated by the woman
  • Often in response to man’s passivity or failure to provide for her in some way
  • Nag, pummel, throw things, hysterical
  • Trying to get husband to do something to meet her needs, expectations
  • Often become more intense during divorce—eg. Getting enough from settlement
  • Man often passive-aggressive, depressed, obsessive-compulsive and/or intellectualizing
male controlling interactive violence
Male-Controlling Interactive Violence
  • Arises primarily when spouses disagree
  • Man physically dominates the woman to assert control
  • Man feels he has the right, or duty, to put woman in her place
  • Generally man does not beat up woman
  • Woman often tries to leave when escalates; man often tries to prevent—pins her down
  • Shakes to calm her down if screaming “for her own good”
  • Frequently co-exists with female-initiated violence
situational or conflict instigated violence
Situational Or Conflict Instigated Violence
  • Most common 12% total, 50% of DV
  • Bi directional, initiated by both at similar rates
  • Poor management of conflict
  • Coercion and control not central
  • Minor forms of physical violence
  • Partners not fearful of each other
  • More likely to stop after separation
separation engendered post divorce trauma
Separation-Engendered Post-Divorce Trauma
  • Uncharacteristic acts of violence precipitated by separation or divorce process
  • Not present during marriage itself
  • Violence not ongoing or repetitive
  • Usually spouse who feels abandoned becomes violent
  • Perpetrator usually embarrassed or ashamed
  • Changes power balance and offender may gain leverage/control
psychotic and paranoid reactions
Psychotic and Paranoid Reactions
  • Very small per cent
  • Serious thought disorder, distortion of reality
  • Psychosis, drug-induced
  • Perceive spouse as aggressor, persecutor
  • Attack before being attacked
  • Unpredictable, therefore frightening
  • Need for protection for spouse, children and those helping family
screening for abuse violence
Screening For Abuse & Violence
  • Screening is an assessment process throughout NOT discrete action at front end only
  • Understand dynamics of abuse and violence
  • Assess your degree of expertise and specialization
screening for abuse violence1
Screening For Abuse & Violence
  • Rely on:
    • Conference call with counsel
    • Review of documentation (orders, parenting plan, criminal records, restraining orders, other reports, etc.)
    • Informed and detailed intake screening questionnaire, abuse/violence surveys
    • Individual meeting(s) with each parent
domestic violence screening separate interviews
Domestic Violence Screening (separate interviews)
  • Fear of violence or violence between parties
  • Other forms of abusive and controlling behavior
  • Consider risk to children
  • A B C’s
    • Attitudes toward use of violence, abuse and control
    • Behaviors or threats of behaviors that are violent, abusive and controlling
    • Consequences of violent, abusive and controlling behaviors or threats
screening for abuse violence2
Screening For Abuse & Violence
  • Impact, severity, danger, fear of victim parent
  • How children are involved in conflict
  • Related risk factors (mental disorder, substance abuse, anti-social behaviour, extra-familial violence)
screening for abuse violence3
Screening For Abuse & Violence
  • Assessment of:
    • patterns of conduct, behaviors (type)
    • frequency (single episode vs pattern)
slide145
Context:
    • Offender’s intent
    • Meaning to victim
    • Effect of act on victim, how it is perceived
  • Directionality: bi or uni-directional
common behaviors in victims
Common behaviors in victims
  • Fear of being in same room with partner
  • Fear of retribution
  • Reluctant to speak up
  • Reluctance to state own needs
  • May assume responsibility for DV
  • Overall comfort level low
afcc guidelines abuse and violence
AFCC Guidelines: Abuse And Violence
  • AFCC Guidelines, pp 2-3:

“The alternative dispute resolution process described above as central to the PC’s role may be inappropriate and potentially exploited by the perpetrators of domestic violence who have exhibited patterns of violence, threat, intimation and coercive control over their co-parent. In those cases of domestic violence where a parent seeks to

afcc guidelines abuse and violence1
AFCC Guidelines: Abuse And Violence

obtain and maintain power and control over the other, the role of the PC changes to an almost purely enforcement function. Here the PC is likely to be dealing with a court order, the more detailed the better, rather than a mutually agreed upon parenting plan; the role is to ensure compliance with the details of the order to test each request for variance from its terms with an eye to

afcc guidelines abuse and violence2
AFCC Guidelines: Abuse And Violence

protecting the custodial parent’s autonomy to make decisions based on the children’s best interests and guarding against manipulation by the abusing parent. ADR techniques in such cases may have the effect of maintaining or increasing the imbalance of power and the imbalance of power and the victim’s risk of harm. Accordingly, each jurisdiction should have in place a process:

afcc guidelines abuse and violence3
AFCC Guidelines: Abuse And Violence

to screen out and/or develop specialized PC protocols and procedures in this type of DV case.

Likewise, the PCs should routinely screen protective cases for DV and decline to accept such cases if they do not have specialized expertise and procedures to effectively manage DV cases involving an imbalance of power, control and coercion.”

afcc guidelines abuse and violence4
AFCC Guidelines: Abuse And Violence
  • II. Impartiality VS neutrality
  • V.B. No confidentiality AND mandatory reporting of abuse, risk of harm
  • VI.D. Conflict management function; tailor techniques to avoid opportunity for further coercion
  • IX.B. X.E. Ensuring safety, individual meetings
  • X.F. Adherence to protection orders, necessary measures to ensure safety
  • Appendix A. Domestic Violence Training
appropriate and inappropriate cases for parenting coordination
Appropriate And Inappropriate Cases for Parenting Coordination
  • Likely to be effective for:
    • Common couple violence
    • Separation engendered violence
  • Less effective for:
    • Male battering
    • Psychotic or paranoid individuals
protections available
Protections Available
  • Can pick your PC vs. your Judge
  • More regular and direct contacts
  • Neutral person vs. one lawyer against the other
  • Separate meetings possible; decisions in writing
  • Can attend with a support person, lawyer
  • Legal advice to enter process; before agreements; during arbitration
practice guidelines
Practice Guidelines
  • Develop specialized protocols and procedures to ensure compliance with the details of the order
  • Careful review of parenting plan and amended/ eliminate opportunities for violence to continue
  • Ensure other experts (therapists, etc.) involved are qualified to handle these situations
practice guidelines1
Practice Guidelines
  • Separate meetings for pre-decision-making
  • Decisions and agreements all in writing
safety considerations
Safety Considerations

In cases with domestic violence or restraining orders:

Check to see if parties can meet in the same room

Possible modification of restraining order

15 minute separation arriving and leaving

Be clear what protection you can and cannot provide and what parties may have to do on own

role of the pc
Role Of The Pc
  • Determined by type of violence
    • On-going and Episodic Male Battering/Intimate Terrorism
      • PC arbitrates, enforces
    • Male-Controlling Interactive Violence/Situational Couple Violence
      • PC educates and mediates
  • Monitor access plan
  • Case management
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