Blog Disoder In the Courts II
Protective Mothers in Child Custody
Disputes: A Study of Judicial Abuse
By Geraldine Butts Stahly, PH.D., Linda Krajewski, Bianca Loya, Linda Krajewski, Bianca
Loya, Kyra Dotter, Kimberly Evans, Wesley Farris, Felicia Frias, Grace German, Nancy Stuebner,
Kiranjeet Uppal, And Jenna Valentine
California State University, San Bernardino
This project is a pilot study of a national survey undertaken to examine the experiences of protective mothers. One hundred fifty-seven self-identified protective mothers, completed a 101-item questionnaire describing aspects oftheir custody dispute. The pilot data includes demographic factors, economic impact, and a full variety of protection issues, including the range of allegations, the role of psychological expert examinations, diagnosis and testimony, family court response and outcomes for children. Findings to date suggest that protective mothers are likely to be mothers who have been victims of domesticviolence, and are likely to be labeled "alienators." Mothers were also likely to be advised by their attorneys and other professionals not to report abuse of their child during custody proceedings. Mothers who support their children's allegations of physical or sexual abuse were overwhelmingly denied custody and sometimes denied visitation with their children. Introduction Empirical studies have established an increase in child abuse in families in which there is domestic violence, and an increase in custody challenges by fathers who have a history of battering (Stahly,1999). There is evidence of an increase in the negative labeling of mothers who report child abuse or domestic violence during custody disputes. Several high profile cases have led to increased public attention, and fractious public debates have erupted between groups supporting the alleged perpetrators of abuse as victims of malicious accusation on the one hand, and groups supporting the reporting parent as the victim of malicious psychiatric labeling on the other (Dallam, 1998). For example, in spite of thelack of empirical support and peer review, Richard Gardner's (1985) theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) continues to influence judges,court appointed evaluators and mediators and other court personnel with adverse consequences for the protection of children in custody disputes. There have been no studies to date on the extent of the overall phenomenon of protective mothers, the psychiatric labeling of protective behavior or the extent to which protective behavior appears to be justified by the circumstances and evidence in custody cases. The current study was undertaken to study the experiences of protective mothers. Methods The study utilized a 101-item self-report questionnaire which was distributed to a sample of convenience that included individuals who self-identified as protective mothers contacting the California Protective Parents Association and California NOW, as well as individuals visiting the California NOW website. Questionnaires were available for completion through the website and were also distributed at conferencesregarding child abuse and domestic violence held in California. Data collected from the questionnaires included demographics, legal history of thecustody case, allegations of abuse, criminal conduct, substance abuse and results of psychological Mother Father Child
*92% of the Protective Mothers made allegations of child abuse.
*56% of the allegations were supported by medical/physical evidence.
80% had some other corroborating evidence.
*75% reported fathers as the perpetrator.
ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE
TYPES OF ABUSE REPORTED evaluations, including the role of the allegation ofparental alienation in custody case outcomes. One hundred fifty-seven completed surveys from protective mothers were collected and enteredinto SPSS. Descriptive statistics were run on the data from this initial sample. A majority of the respondents were from California (89). Atotal of 271 children were involved in the study (157 girls and 114 boys); 65 percent of the childrenwere age five or under.
Tags: abuse, abuses, child, civil, constitutional, discrimination, domestic, human, rights, violence