According to leaks to the media, Australian children less than 2 years old, whose parents are separated, will be prevented from spending much time with their father.
Information from the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ ‘Shared Parenting Study’ – and the report into domestic violence and family law compiled by ex-Family Court judge Richard Chisholm – has been leaked, as is the common practice of Government’s unsure how proposed changes will be received.
In 2003 when the move towards shared parenting was first raised, Australians overwhelmingly supported the notion as was shown by various media polls.
Sue Price, a director of Men’s Rights Agency questions how can the proposed changes can be in the best interest of children: “The time a father spends with his new baby is crucial to the ‘bonding process’. Recent research has even uncovered the fact that men undergo chemical changes to their body when they know they are about to become a father. How is this helpful to deny a toddler the benefit of their father’s love and contact? We fear this will just be the start, to roll back shared parenting for older children as well.”
The Government assault against fathers is two-fold. Firstly with the questionable claim children under 2 years need their mother more than their father. Secondly, using the erroneous claims that many fathers are violent towards their children and the mother.
The inquiry into violence has been conducted relying on information which grossly exaggerates the levels of interpersonal violence against women and ignores the same violence against men in the community.
One in three victims of domestic violence is male. Statistics from NSW, Queensland and South Australia support these claims. ( NSW 2005, 2009, SA 1999)
However, the idea that one in three women have been abused can only be supported when the participants in self advocacy surveys are asked “have you ever received an obscene phone call” or “has a man ever made you feel uncomfortable by making inappropriate comments about your body or sex life” and these responses are counted in the domestic violence tally. It would not be unexpected that most men and women may at some time experience a few lewd comments and suggestions – this does not make it domestic violence though and should not be counted as such.
The Attorney General has acknowledged the reviews have been conducted in the shadow of the Darcey Freeman tragedy. The three-year-old, was thrown from the Westgate Bridge, allegedly by her father, motivating an outpouring of hatred against fathers, as if only fathers murder their children. Yet when Gabriela Garcia jumped from the same bridge with her 22 month old son strapped into his baby carrier, less than 12 months previously, similar calls about violent, murderous mothers were not heard. Again statistics tell us more mothers abuse and kill their child than biological fathers, with mother’s boyfriends adding significantly to the numbers of injured/deceased children. (AIC 2005-06)
For any child to be thrown from a bridge to their death is tragic and beyond comprehension for most people in the community, but the death of this child or any other child should not be the motivating factor used to decide the future for the vast majority of separating parents who do not harm their children or the other parent. Unfortunately, if the family law changes towards shared parenting are rolled back it will not just be under 2 year olds denied a relationship with their father, older child will also suffer as well.
The Government may be surprised by the intensity of feeling in the community about the need for both fathers and mothers to be fully involved in a child’s life.
“In my opinion, the suggestion to limit fathers contact with children who are under 2 years of age is based on the misguided interpretation of “attachment theories” which were first promoted by UK psychiatrist John Bowlby in 1951,” Sue Price adds. He studied orphaned children, who had lost both parents during the war and relied on a colleague’s study of baby rhesus monkeys as to whether they became more attached to a cuddly toy version of a monkey or the hard wire version monkey which provided food, to conclude the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life.”
This may be so, but, according to Richard Warshak, (2000, p.429) just a mere five years after publishing his maternal deprivation monograph, Bowlby (1988) acknowledged the existence of enduring attachment bonds between father and child, and concluded that the dangers of separation had been overstated.
Michael Lamb (1994), a leading authority on attachment theory summarized two decades of research as demonstrating that the presence of one attachment figure provides sufficient emotional security to allow a child to avoid separation anxiety when separated from another attachment figure. He concluded that extended separations, including overnights apart from either parent, usually do not stress infants when they are with the other parent, (Warshak, 2000, p.429).
Further research has found infants sought proximity, approached, touched, cried or protested separation from their father as much as they did from their mother, (Geiger, 1996, p.10). In fact, according to Geiger, the research found infants of highly involved fathers cried and disrupted their play least, whereas infants who had low interacting fathers protested separation most.
The widespread acceptance of child care for babies and infants creates a problem for those wishing to isolate fathers from their youngsters and begs the question: “If infants and toddlers can spend considerable amounts of time in the care of paid day care attendants, adapt to such transitions, and still develop and maintain secure attachments to their mothers, there would be no logical reason to deprive infants of extensive contact with their fathers, unless one believes that fathers are incapable of providing care comparable to that provided by day care workers”, (Warshak, 2000, p.430)
Warshak, R.A. (2000) Blanket Restrictions: Overnight Contact Between Parents and Young Children, Family and Conciliation Courts Review, Vol 38, No 4, Sage Publications
Lamb & Kelly, 2001, “Using the empirical literature to guide the development of parenting plans for young children”, Family Court Review, Vol 39 No.4 pp 365-371
Geiger, B., (1996) Fathers as Primary Caregivers, Greenwood Publishing Group, US
References continued on pg. 10
Queensland Government Department of Communities (2009, October 9). Domestic and family violence orders: Number and type of order by gender, Queensland, 2004-05 to 2008-09. [Letter]. Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.menshealthaustralia.net/files/Magistrates_Court_data_on_QLD_DVOs.pdf
People, J. 2005, ‘Trends and Patterns in Domestic Violence Assaults’, Crime and Justice Bulletin, No 89, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, October. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/vwFiles/cjb89.pdf/$file/cjb89.pdf
Australian Institute of Criminology 2008, Homicide in Australia: 2006-07 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report, AIC Reports, Monitoring Reports 01, AIC, Canberra. http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/mr/01/.
Dal Grande, E, Woollacott, T, Taylor, A, Starr, G, Anastassiadis, K, Ben-Tovim, D, Westhorp, G, Hetzel, D, Sawyer, M, Cripps, D, and Goulding, S. 1999, Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Survey, September 1999, Epidemiology Branch, South Australian Department of Human Services, Adelaide. http://www.health.sa.gov.au/pros/portals/0/interpersonal-violence-survey.pdf
To arrange an interview, and for further information, contact: Sue Price, Men’s Rights Agency Mob: 0409 269 621