50/50 time with our god given children is hard to object to unless you hate children
August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
FROM: Todd Bottom
I’ve read on several pages and sites (from both men and women) opinions about “50/50” parenting. Often, but not always, its dads contending that they should get 50% of the time with their children and 50% should go to the mother. Dads argue that it’s their right and that the children benefit from having him in their lives; moms argue that it’s disruptive to the (often young) child’s life, and often that the dad is not a good parent.
As a divorced non-custodial father with an M.A. in psychology (3 months away from completing my Ph.D.), I’m compelled to weigh in. I’ve been researching the outcomes of divorced and non-custodial fathers for several years, and my dissertation is a 2-year project in the making in which I’m assessing the parenting experiences and psychological well-being of fathers. My dissertation bibliography alone includes over 200 peer-reviewed research articles.
Here…in no uncertain terms…is why we CANNOT say that 50/50 parenting does not work. Keep in mind that I’m not saying it DOES work. I’m saying that no one has shown that it DOES NOT work. There is a huge difference.
Quite simply, there is no evidence showing that 50/50 parenting is not in the child’s best interest or outcomes. Some people have written such claims, but it’s all theoretical. Sure, both sides of the argument may sound good and logical based on personal experience or what you’ve heard and read from others. But most such claims come from people who are not trained to make that assessment. They are disillusioned parents, armature bloggers, life coaches, media personalities, or professionals outside of research and psychology (i.e. social workers, attorneys, politicians, etc.).
A very limited number of trained researchers and those with clinical degrees may claim that 50/50 parenting is not best for children’s outcomes. However, such claims are based on: 1) case studies of individual experiences, or 2) on the situations of several clients over several years. These are biased approaches for at least two reasons. First, individuals in case studies are intentionally selected to assess the extreme ends of an issue…no one wants to study Average Joe. Second, clients of clinical psychologists are also typically at the end of the spectrum which indicates that there are more issues at hand than custody.
Here’s why no credible evidence exists to show that 50/50 parenting won’t work:
1) There is an extreme lack of cases to study. This type of custody/parenting is nearly non-existent, which makes it hard to assess.
2) This type of custody rarely exists because fathers are not given the opportunity to have it because: 1) they do not ask for it, 2) the mother objects, or 3) the courts do not favor it.
3) Even if there were enough such families to locate, recruit, follow, and empirically assess 200+ of them (enough to start generalizing to the general population), it would take 30 or more years to do so. It is extremely time consuming and expensive to track children from 50/50 homes from their early childhood until mid-life to know whether or not 50/50 affected their adult outcomes. (My professional guess is that it would cost more than $5M to study this over a 30-year period.)
4) Even if – after 30 years of tracking and assessing these children of divorce – it would be extremely difficult to show that the 50/50 arrangement was the cause of any positive or negative outcome in adulthood. Over that much time, too many other factors could also contribute to long-term outcomes…including race, socio-economic status, parents’ levels of education, geographic location, and many other variables.
So…My response to any person who tells me that 50/50 is not in children’s best interest (and my challenge to those of you who believe it is) is that no evidence supports your opinion. Until you can show me with empirical evidence based on sound research assessed over the lifetime of enough children to generalize to the population, I will continue to believe that 50/50 IS in the best interest of children. If you have any evidence to support your own opinion or to contradict my professional one, please let me know.
Todd Bottom, M.A. (ABD)