Summaries of Alienation Studies

Summaries of Studies about Alienation, Custody, Post Divorce Adjustment, Visitation, and more

This page summarizes studies having to do with alienation, custody, post divorce adjustment, visitation and anything else that I think may be helpful. Because of space, my summaries will be brief and without much comment. I will give the reference if you would want to look up the study for more information.

Ahrons, C., & Miller, Richard (1993). The effect of the Post divorce Relationship on Paternal Involvement: A longitudinal Analysis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63(3), 441-450.

SUMMARY: The results of the author’s analysis suggest that the relationship between the former spouses have a greater impact on the father’s parental responsibilities than on the amount of contact they have with the children. It also appears that the relationship is a significant predictor of the father’s compliance to pay child support.

Kock, M., & Lowery, C. (1984). Visitation and the Noncustodial Father. Journal of Divorce, 8(2), 47-64.

SUMMARY:  The results of this study found that the parental relationship and not the paternal-child relationship were a better predictor for continued involvement of the noncustodial father. In other words, effective communication where parents can mutually influence each other and discuss issues about the children’s development had positive benefits for the paternal-child relationship.

Palmer, N. (1988). Legal Recognition of the Parental Alienation Syndrome. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 16(4), 361-363.

SUMMARY: Ms. Palmer argued for the use of a Guardian Ad Litem for monitoring Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Emery, R. (1988) Children in the Divorce Process. Journal of Family Psychology, 2(2), 141-144.

SUMMARY:  Emery responded and elaborated on the research conducted by Kelly (1988). He made the point that a divorce per se is not strongly linked to a child’s overall adjustment but instead is influenced more by the family process before, during and after the separation. He further stated that physical (50/50) joint custody is unrealistic and that most parents favor legal joint custody where the children continue to reside most of the time in a single home. He also argued (he cited no references) that research comparing the children’s psychological health in sole verse joint custody is inconclusive.

Kelly, J. (1988), Longer-Term Adjustment in Children of Divorce: Converging Findings and Implications for Practice. Journal of Family Psychology, 2(2), 119-139.

SUMMARY: Kelly summarized a number of research findings, including many of which came from her own work. The more salient conclusions and points are:

  • Parental separation is a crisis for most children.
  • The most acute response to the separation is within the first 6 months and will usually diminish after a year.
  • Children in divorced families when compared to intact families will experience a greater number of social, academic, and psychological adjustment problems.
  • Boys in divorced homes were more aggressive and acted out more frequently than boys from intact homes.
  • When there was less parental conflict after the divorce, children reported that this was a positive benefit from the divorce.
  • Socioeconomic status was not significantly related to any social-behavioral variables.
    20% of the parents believed that they could not at all cooperate with the other parent in regard to the children at the time of the divorce.
  • Predictable and frequent contacts with the noncustodial parent have been repeatedly shown to relate to the children’s positive adjustment unless the father was poorly adjusted or immature. This is particularly true when the custodial parent approves of the contacts. This is also truer with boys than girls.
  • The standard visitation schedule of alternating weekends with father cause intense dissatisfaction among children, especially young boys.
  • The mother’s satisfaction with the father was a predictor of a better adjustment for both boys and girls.
  • Custodial mothers have more problems with discipline than fathers do.
  • Children’s adjustment is adversely affected when there is high conflict between parents.
    Children in the custody of the same sex parent adjusted better than living with the opposite sex parent. Emory questioned this point in his study listed above.
  • Joint custody (legal, not necessarily physical) had a more positive outcome for children. Fathers were more satisfied than mothers with this arrangement.
  • Fathers paid support more regularly when they had joint rather than sole custody.
    The prior assumption that mothers should have custody after a divorce is not supported.

Kaufman, J. & Zigler, E., (1986) Do Abused Children Become Abusive Parents? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 57(2) 186-192.

SUMMARY:  The authors reviewed and critiqued studies assessing the risk of an abusive parent abusing their children. They found that the estimates for inter-generational abuse ranged from 18% to 70%. They concluded from their analysis that the best estimate of inter-generational abuse appears to be about 30% ± 5%. This is six times the estimated rate of 5% for the general population. From their estimates, they concluded that the majority of parents who were abused did not abuse their children. The question of what factors caused abused parents to maltreat their children was not answered.

Dudley, J., (1991) Increasing Our Understanding of Divorced Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact with Their Children. Family Relations. 40, 279-28.

SUMMARY: The purpose of this study was to examine the reasons why fathers have infrequent contact with their children. With a sample size of 84, the author found that 33 fathers identified the relationship with their former spouse as the major obstacle, 22 identified personal reasons or circumstance (substance abuse, job demands, girlfriends), 13 said the children were older and too busy to visit, and 12 said that the children lived too great a distance. 11 of the 33 fathers made the point that the early divorce proceedings contributed to the problems with former spouse. They frequently complained about the court’s failure to enforce or expand the visitation orders. A point of interest is that divorced mothers and fathers had different reports about the frequency of contacts. This is a good argument for having to keep a log when there is a high conflict divorce.

Dudley suggested from his results that the court proceedings probably exacerbated the conflicts between the former spouses or created new conflicts that discouraged some fathers from visiting their children.

Rand, Deirdre Conway, 1997 The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome (Part 1) American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 15(3), 23-52.

Rand, Deirdre Conway, 1997 The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome (Part 2) American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 15(4), 39-92.

SUMMARY: Both of these articles are must reading for anyone wanting to understand how PAS evolved and read of review of pertinent research. The summary on sanctions used by the courts of parents not cooperating with visits was particularly interesting.