Peterio Trompo, Europos Tėvų platformos prezidento, Nyderlandų “ Tėvų žinių centro“ vadovo, pranešimas tarptautinėje konferencijoje “ Lygiavertė tėvystė po skyrybų – vaikų psichologinio stabilumo pagrindas. Teisiniai ir psichologiniai aspektai“ Vilniuje 2013.10.03. ( anglų kalba, ruošiamas vertimas į lietuvių kalbą).
Lll Co-parenting legislation in Europe – The benefits of post-divorce shared care and residence for children, parents and society
Presentation by Peter Tromp MSc [ ], secretary general of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF), at the conference on „Equal parenting legislation and shared residence rights after divorce and children’s psychological stability: Legal and psychological aspects.“ held in the Parliamentary Building of the Republic of Lithuania (Seimas) in Vilnius on Friday, October 4, 2013.
All across Europe the child custody debate has moved to the top of the political agenda. The battle lines are essentially the stark choice between mother-only-custody of the child versus shared parenting where both parents are participants in child custody and care. Much is at stake – not just for gender feminists, who support the former, and fathers and equality feminists, who support the latter, but also for children and whether the balanced, healthy society we all seek will become a reality. This is a clash that must be won. It cannot, as American author Warren Farrell famously said, be an undeclared war won at a battlefield where only one side turned up. The question today is whether children in the post divorce scenario grow up to be a liability and burden on the state, or a jewel in society’s crown ? After 30 years of feigning deafness, politicians across Europe are acknowledging the contributions and efforts fathers should be allowed to make to young children if they are ever to be properly ‘socialised’.“ This cannot be done under the present regime of mother-only-custody still to be found in most European countries.
This presentation will address the psychological and emotional needs of children but it will also mention the concrete changes underway. Fathers, who for too long were excluded from the social policy level and who were denied any input in shaping policy, are today making small inroads. For instance, there are developments in shared parenting to be found in EU countries like Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Czechia and to a degree in Dutch and German family law which I will also cover in this paper. Slowly, ‘outcomes’ for so long championed by fathers’ organisations, are being adopted as the criterion rather than ideologically driven dogma. It was just 10 years ago that the consensus was that it was unnecessary for a father to have any role after birth and fathers were increasingly seen as superfluous to children’s needs. Slowly, as society has unravelled, it has been recognised that children in fatherless families run greater mortality and morbidity risks. That their ‘quality of life’ is poor, their ‘live chances’ negligible. Without fathers present they become victims of physical abuse, emotional and sexual abuse, have poor health, poor education, become drink and drug dependent, homeless and jailed.
Good morning. First of all I would like to thank you for inviting me to this conference on shared and equal parenting rights in Lithuania.
My name is Peter Tromp. I am a child- and educational psychologist from the Netherlands and – as its president – I represent the Dutch Father Knowledge Centre and – as its Secretary General – I represent the Platform for European Fathers (PEF).
The Platform for European Fathers (PEF) was formally founded on June 27, 2011 to represent father organisations and fathers interests at the European policy levels in Brussels. Its founding meeting was in the buildings of the European Parliament and coincided with the conference organised in and by the European Parliament on the policy issue of a European minimum Paternity Leave of two weeks. PEF now has 24 member organisations from 15 different EU countries and is rapidly growing.
And the Dutch Father Knowledge Centre (Vader Kennis Centrum) was founded in 1988. It champions the cause of involved fatherhood and equal parenting and keeping both parents actively involved in children’s lives, also after divorce and separation. It works with policy makers, scientists, campaign groups, lobbyists and reformers and aims to make knowledge and information available about the role, the contributions and the efforts men and fathers are making in children’s lives, particularly in raising and educating (their) children. Whether that is in the family – both before and after divorce – or in any of the other living environments where children grow up, like childcare and education. The aim is to have these contributions and efforts of fathers and men in caring for and educating children better acknowledged and supported on the social policy level.
In my presentation of today I would like to speak to you about some of the benefits of post-divorce ‘shared parenting’ arrangements for children . At the end of my presentation I would like to conclude with summary introductions to the situation of – and developments in – shared parenting in the European Union.
2. Some definition issues in post-divorce shared and equal parenting
Before elaborating on the benefits of post-divorce ‘shared parenting’ for children I would first have to spend some words on some of the different issues surrounding a definition of shared and equal parenting.
Joint legal custody, joint physical custody, shared parenting, equal parenting, shared residence, shared care, bi-location, co-parenting are all terms and concepts that are being used in the context of shared and equal parenting. They all have different meanings and different legal connotations.
When I am talking, however, of the benefits of shared and equal parenting I am referring to any post-divorce form of parenting in which both parents share in the day-to-day care and residence for the children in a mutually agreed post-divorce parenting plan or arrangement between the parents. This excludes forms of shared parenting that are only limited to joint legal custody without sharing in the day-to-day physical care for the children, as I consider these custody forms to be ‘shared parenting’ only in name and not in practice.
3. The benefits of post-divorce shared parenting
If we look at what available scientific research tells us what the best interests of children are with regard to parenting arrangements after divorce or separation, then the picture cannot be clearer. Comparing the outcomes for children growing up in shared parenting arrangements, having regular contact with and care from both parents after divorce or separation, with the outcomes for children growing up in single parent families in the sole care of only one of their parents, generally the mother, than children growing up in shared parenting do much better.
Better outcomes for children in shared parenting arrangements
From a meta-analysis on 33 underlying separation researches Robert Bauserman (American Psychological Association, 2002) concluded, that children growing up in a form of shared parenting with frequent contact with and care from both parents, had
– less behavioural – and emotional problems,
– exhibited higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence,
– were better capable of building and preserving social contacts and relations, both within and outside the family and
– performed better at school,
than children who had grown up in the sole care of only one of their parents.
Children growing up in shared parenting of both parents after divorce and separation did so much better than children growing up under sole care of only one of their parents, that shared parenting arrangements after separation by far proved to be the „second best“ parenting arrangement for growing up children, providing them with a new post-divorce family situation that best approached the ideal situation of an intact family.
From a range of other researches it further became clear, that children growing up in shared parenting of both parents
– develop better,
– are more satisfied,
– prove to be better adapted and adjusted and
– have more self-confidence and self-worth
in comparison with children growing up in sole care of one of their parents (Nunan, 1980; Cowan, 1982; Pojman, 1982; Livingston, 1983; Noonan, 1984; Shiller, 1984.,1986; Handley, 1985; Wolchik, 1985; Bredefeld, 1985; Öberg & Öberg, 1987).
From a Harvard study on 517 separation families over a period of 4 years wide, children growing up under post-divorce shared parenting proved to be less depressed, exhibited less unadjusted behaviours, and achieved better school results than children growing up in post-divorce sole care. (Buchanan, MacCoby, Dornbusch, 1996.)
Also, boys growing up in shared parenting are found to have less emotional problems than boys growing up in sole care (Pojman 1982; Shiller 1986).
Adverse effects on children’s health and well-being of growing up fatherless in one-parent families
The available research clearly shows that children growing up in sole care – mainly fatherless and with their mothers in mother-headed families – do much worse than children growing up in shared parenting.
Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly controlled diabetes and asthma. (Holmes, 2007)
A Swedish large scale population study on children’s health found that children growing up fatherless in single-parent families also have more depression complaints, use more and earlier drugs and alcohol (binge-drinking), get more accidents and more often commit suicide, than children growing up in the care and with the involvement of both parents. (Swedish population study into the consequences of single-parent families on children, Ringbäck Weitoft, Hjern, Haglund, Rosén, 2003).
And a recent Dutch study on the importance of fathers for their children after parental separation and divorce (ENOVA, 2008) found that in the Dutch province of Drenthe 62% of all children in need of special youth care and youth welfare provided by the Dutch state originated from single parent families headed by mothers.
Also a consistency has now been determined between growing up in fatherless single-parent families and the prevalence of children being diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder ADHD/ADD. Children in single parent families are at twice the risk of being ADHD-diagnosed and prescribed with the drug Ritalin than children from intact two-parent families (Strohschein, 2007).
Child abuse risk and “new boyfriend-” or stepparent-risk
Child abuse can happen in all types of families, but it happens most in single parent mother-headed families and in new “patchwork-families” with stepchildren.
Children, especially boys, growing up in single parent mother-headed families are at twice to 2,5 times the risk of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse and neglect by either the mother herself or her “new friend”, the so-called “stepparent”. (Holmes, 2007; AMK, 1999, 2000, 2001)
Brought into a situation of social exclusion from the paternal half of their families by the present mother-only custody and care practises in family law and family courts, and with their fathers and paternal grandparents no longer involved or present in their lives, isolated children more often become victims of emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect by the mother or her new boyfriend. The devastating results of social and family court policies giving prevalence to mother-only custody and care for the divorce children involved in terms of rising child abuse cases and occurring family-drama’s are now reported on frequently in today’s journals and newspapers of all of our societies.