June 20, 2014

Why psychologist’s child damage claims are unhelfpul

By Kate Banerjee, head of our children’s team

Penelope Leach’s assertion that young children’s brain development can be damaged by dividing their time between parents who have split up is nothing short of controversial.

The leading psychologist and family advice guru is advocating that children staying overnight once a week with their fathers is not healthy, whilst at the same time condemning the dividing of a child’s time equally between both parents, claiming it to be damaging.

Her latest book, Family Breakdown, argues that children under the age of four are most at risk and as a result of split living arrangements are suffering unhealthy attachment issues.

Comments such as these are not helpful for either mum or dad and will just add to the anxiety and guilt they are probably already feeling at having to put their children through the pain of a divorce.

What concerns me most though is Ms Leach is not offering a solution to the issues she is raising. Is she saying that children should only have a relationship with one parent – the one they are living with? If so, it is hardly surprising that New Father’s 4 Justice and Families Need Fathers are outraged by her comments. However, I am sure there will many mums who are equally dismayed with her views.

Her arguments also conflict with the ethos behind the Children and Families Act 2014 which advocates the involvement of both parents in a child’s life after separation providing it is safe for them to do so and in their best interests.

When the new Act came into force last April, Family Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes, declared: “We are making sure the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system.”

For most parents, their child’s wellbeing will be their main concern and they will do their best to minimise the upset caused by the breakdown of the family unit.

Some may argue that Ms Leach has a point as the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) has revealed that children’s mental health is a factor in many of the cases they deal with in family courts, often as a result of parental acrimony.

But surely the answer is ensuring that both parents play an active role in their child’s life whether that be staying over one night a week with dad or alternating weeks to ensure as much as stability as reasonably possible.Inflatable Pool

Do you agree with Penelope Leach? Are there any alternative solutions?

If you have any concerns or questions about the impact of separation or divorce on children please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail. You can also follow us on Twitter: @helpwithdivorce.