I have just finished my 5th day of conference attendance this week. Monday and Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts filled my mind with the research of some of the leading experts in the field of shared parenting from 24 countries around the world at the International Conference on Shared Parenting. Next, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in San Antonio, Texas provided food for thought offered by a variety of supervised visitation providers and researchers at the annual conference of the International Supervised Visitation Network, with the theme: Many Voices - One Shared Vision.
And now I percolate! Hannah's House is a research-to-practice program and I have much work to do as I process all of the thought-provoking information I have gathered over the past several days.
For example, how do I integrate the research outcomes on joint physical custody vs. sole physical custody: outcomes for children independent of parental conflict and income? How can our work be better informed by the research on shared care for very young children? One particularly interesting presentation was on research that strongly suggests that shared parenting may cause better outcomes for children.
One study asked the question: Does overnight parenting with dad harm mom’s relationship? The outcome suggested that overnight parenting with dad was associated independently with benefits to the mother/child relationship. Another outcome of that study was that optimal father-child relationships were achieved with equal overnights at age 2; and optimal mother-child relationships were achieved with any number of overnights with mother age 2. This study indicates that there is a linear relationship between overnights at age 2 and better emotionally close relationships with fathers at adolescence and young adulthood. While the evidence does not establish causality, it is consistent with causality.
There was some fascinating research presented on attachment. Infants form significant relationships with both parents at about the same time late in the first year even when mothers spend 3-4 times more time with them. Babies of eighteen months tended to protest separation form both parents. Infants are securely attached about two thirds of the time to their mothers and to their fathers in about the same proportion. Infants are often securely attached to one parent and insecurely attached to the other. A secure attachment to one parent tends to offset an insecure attachment to the other. A baby needs just one secure attachment. The question that was really the most thought-provoking in this presentation? How does anyone know which parent the child will become securely attached to? The research strongly suggests that babies should have both parents in their lives.
I will probably be writing about these important issues for the next several days. Stay tuned!