COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80995 ‑ (719)531‑5 181
Focus on the Family
February 28, 2006
[name and address omitted]
Dear Mrs. [name omitted]:
Greetings from Focus on the Family! Brad Miller forwarded your e‑mail to me so that I might address your inquiry in full. It is a privilege to do so.
We appreciate your willingness to come directly to us with regard to our position paper on joint physical custody as it appears on the Alliance for Non‑Custodial Parents Rights' Web site. While much of our original statement appears intact, it is missing points essential to the integrity of the document. As such, we have enclosed an official copy along with an addendum for your perusal.
As you read over the information we have included, you'll notice that we do base much of our outlook on Dr. Judith Wallerstein's conclusions -- a point of contention among those who disagree with our view. Given the critique you included with your e‑mail, we feel it important to address any outstanding concerns you may have about the veracity of her research.
First, it may interest you to know that we are thoroughly familiar with Dr. Wallerstein and the debate surrounding her analyses. Although she did begin her research in the 1970s, she has continued up to the present day, and her study is certainly not antiquated. In fact, the twenty‑five year summary of her life work was published in 2000 in her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. We are also aware of the supposed shortcomings of her smaller sample size, as discussed in your attachment. She did, indeed, look at a small population from a geographically concentrated area; however, she did not see that fact as a weakness but as a strength, and we agree. Allow me to explain.
Dr. Wallerstein is a psychologist, not a sociologist. Psychological researchers often study smaller samples with whom they actually interact personally over many years, as Dr. Wallerstein did. Sociologists do not deal with real people, but with lots of data collected about these people over long periods of time. Psychologists look "deep" whereas sociologists look "wide." These are two different research methodologies and together they provide important benefits to the body of knowledge accumulated.
The question we must ask is how psychologists and sociologists complement or contrast each other on a particular issue. On this question, the larger sample studies, which can be extrapolated to the population at large, consistently support Dr. Wallerstein's findings: divorce hurts children far deeper, for much longer and in more dramatic ways than we ever imagined. There is no serious disagreement between her work and others who have looked at the long‑term impact of divorce. Judith Wallerstein
NURTURING AND DEFENDING F A M I L I E S W 0 R L D W I D E
J A M E S C . D 0 B S 0 N , P H . D . , FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN
J A M E S D . D A L Y , P R E S I D E N T
Mrs. [name omitted]
February 28, 2006
is a very serious, widely respected researcher whose findings became popular because they were so contrary to what we thought we would discover in the fall‑out from divorce.
Additionally, we draw much of our information on joint custody from Dr. Wallerstein's more recent book, which offers advice to parents and courts on how to navigate divorce in the best possible manner for both parents and children. That book was published in 2003 and draws from the thirty years of experience she has had in looking at families going through divorce. It is in this up‑to‑date text that she most strongly speaks words of caution regarding joint physical custody. In case you're interested in taking a look at it yourself, the book is titled "What About the Kids: Raising Your Kids Before, During and After Divorce.
Again, thanks for taking a moment to get in touch. We hope this response has shed some light on the reasons behind our perspective. Richest blessings to you and your staff there at [organization omitted]!
Office of the President