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Child focused and child inclusive family law dispute resolution : one year findings from a prospective study of outcomes
journal contributionposted on 01.05.2007, 00:00 authored by Jennifer McintoshJennifer Mcintosh, Y Wells, Caroline Long
This prospective study compared outcomes over 1 year for two groups of separated parents, who attended mediation about their entrenched parenting disputes. The two treatments studied both aimed to improve the psychological resolution of parental conflict with associated reduction of distress for their children. The Child Focused intervention prioritised thought about the needs of children in high conflict divorce, but without any direct involvement of the children, while the Child Inclusive intervention incorporated separate consultation by a specialist with the children in each family, and consideration of their concerns with parents in the mediation forum. Measures were collected from parents and children prior to mediation commencing, and again three and twelve months after the conclusion of mediation. Significant and enduring reduction in levels of conflict and improved management of disputes occurred for both treatment groups in the year after mediation. Across all ages, children in both interventions perceived less frequent and intense conflict between their parents and better resolution of it, with a significant lowering of their related distress. The Child Inclusive intervention showed a number of independent effects not evident in the other treatment group, related to relationship improvements and psychological wellbeing. These effects were strongest for fathers and children. Agreements reached by the Child Inclusive group were significantly more durable and workable over the year, and these parents were half as likely to instigate new litigation over parenting matters in the year after mediation than were the Child Focused parents. The article considers possible mechanisms of change underpinning these outcomes.