ABOVE: Peter Tromp (left) and Robert Whiston at the Dutch media centre in Hilversum, Netherlands, 2007.
Family law clash in Ozz has implications for all of us too.
‘McIntosh: Cat on a hot tin roof ?’
Like a cornered cat, researcher Dr. Jennifer McIntosh now has nothing to lose. Backed into a corner over the validity of her “academic” claims about child custody she is running for cover.
But in this fight for her honour is it already too late ? Is her reputation, at best, already on ‘life support’ and at worst ‘shot to pieces’ ?
A few days ago the breaking news across the internet was of a crashing McIntosh. Judging from what you will read below Bettina Arndt, the highly respected freelance journalist (with a doctorate in psychology to boot) might well have been fighting to get her article critical of McIntosh’s 2010 report published (and uncensored) in “The Age” newspaper.
In the event Bettina Arndt‘s article has been censored by lawyers hired by McIntosh trying to stifle the story by insisting on redactions – no doubt to save McIntosh’s blushes, not to mention her professional reputation and pension. But we can grasp how explosive it was merely by reading the version that was probably heavily edited by the newspaper’s legal team.
McIntosh has not endeared herself by outlandish and somewhat juvenile claims concerning what she sees as the motives behind Profs. Warshak and Nielsen who she feels are somehow ganging-up on her (see green panel right: “Prof. Richard Warshak – overnight care; what works ?”, and “Prof. Linda Nielsen – the role of ‘woozles’ in custody law”). Rather than address the points made by the 110 experts, McIntosh is taking it personally and turning to dropping out sneaky remarks to the media about he critics in true “the personal is the political” style.
The inference must be that Warshak and Nielsen are not engaged academic liberty and the pursuit of truth but instead are playing some sort of “gender warfare” game which is about as far away from science (and the reality), as one can imagine.
But isn’t this the epitome of the adage “By their fruits shall yea know them.” Isn’t this the pot trying to call the kettle black – and who’s better placed than McIntosh to know all about that.
McIntosh’ed at last
McIntosh has finally been ‘ McIntosh’ed’ herself by her peers and betters over claims that ‘sleepovers’ for children under 4 years old is ‘stressful.’ What tripe, and it has now been shown to be utter tosh. She’s been brought down to earth with a bump by her impudence and some well directed (and deserved) ‘Triple A’ flak. The question now is, will she go the same way as Flight MH 370 ?
In extraordinary shenanigans behind the scenes which are only just emerging, it would seem McIntosh hired lawyers to protect her reputation from (in what she must have judged) total annihilation from what might have been a devastating attack by a newspaper intent on citing other academics to rubbish her views (whatever happened to freedom of the press ?).
In extraordinary shenanigans behind the scenes which are only just emerging, it would seem McIntosh hired lawyers to protect her reputation from (in what she must have judged) total annihilation. One can only speculate, until it is confirmed or not later, that McIntosh shrank away from the danger of what might have been a devastating exposé by a newspaper intent on revealing the truth of what other academics thought of her views
Much is supposition but what might have also agitated the Melbourne based child psychologist, McIntosh, is the stinging rebuke by her peers and betters. They conclude that McIntosh inappropriately used her study to suggest that any regular overnight care by fathers was damaging to infants and toddlers. Their verdict was that:
‘‘This study [by McIntosh] provides no reliable basis to support custody policy, recommendations or decisions.’’
What greater blow to one’s ego and reputation can there be than that ?
The authorised version
In fact, Bettina Arndt wrote two articles on April 28th 2014; one was called, “Empty days, lonely nights” (see http://www.theage.com.au/national/empty-days-lonely-nights-20140428-37e3e.html?rand=1398717331120), and the second was entitled, “Movement on father’s overnight access” (see http://www.smh.com.au/national/about-us/movement-on-fathers-overnight-access-20140428-zr0z2.html#ixzz30Jcgvwx7).
The first article referred to a dawning that the accepted belief that children aged under 4 should not stay overnight with their separated or divorced father was wrong-headed. This is the diet that has underpinned the West’s family law system for years and Bettina Arndt dared to ask the impertinent but sound question “Has it all been a huge mistake ?”
The second article, “Movement on father’s overnight access”, highlights the current rethink following the publication of two academic papers and the American Psychological Associations’s journal, “Psychology, Public Policy and Law”. The one paper by Prof. Richard Warshak is endorsed by 110 leading international experts and the other by Prof. Linda Nielsen describes how the McIntosh study was “woozled” and was misused in custody matters.
NB. For those like me not au fait withWoozles,they originated (their etymology) was in ‘Winnie the Pooh‘, where he and his friendsbecome obsessed with the idea that they are being stalked by a frightening beast which they call a Woozle. In fact, they has gone full circle and the ‘woozle’s’ footprints are in fact their own.” A ‘woozle’ in the social sciences is a belief or claim based on inaccurate, partial, or flawed data that is repeatedly misrepresented, misinterpreted or ‘woozled’ in ways that influence public opinion and public policy. It’s a polite way of restating Goebbels (the master of propaganda). maxim that the successful technique depends on confining itself to a few points and repeating them over and over.” 
Both Warshak and Nielsen’s papers are highly critical of a key 2010 study, i.e. McIntosh’s, that found any regular overnight care by fathers was damaging to infants and toddlers, and the worldwide experts challenged the policies espoused by McIntosh in her damaging sorties into UK (the Norgrove report) and Israeli policy making.
The Warshak paper, supported by 110 experts world wide, said McIntosh’s findings should not have been used as a platform for developing public policy in this area. It is this critical paper that McIntosh is now trying to dismiss by calling it nothing more than a “petition.” McIntosh’s over-confidence meant that she was always ‘riding for a fall’ and in flat contradiction to the facts (i.e. that her ambition was to alter policy), McIntosh has been forced to draw in her horns by lamely claiming that her research finding should never have been used for making policy:
“ . . . . . McIntosh has told Fairfax Media she pointed out in her research paper that her findings should not have been used for making policy.”
Strange then that the whole world and his dog saw it differently.
However, four years after writing her report about her study, in April 2014, in ‘‘Parental separation and overnight care of young children: Consensus through Theoretical and Empirical Integration’’ (published in the Family Court Review), McIntosh examines the current research evidence and acknowledges with the “help” of two co-authors that:
‘‘ . . . . . cautions against any overnight care during the first three years have not been supported’’.
But that does not undo the damage already done.
Standing in what must have been the teeth of a Force 8 gale from international experts, the weasel words pleadings of McIntosh’s lawyer cut no ice with any one in the know:
“Unfortunately, she cannot control how these conclusions are extrapolated by third parties and then attributed to her. However, it is important to confirm that she is not the source of such extrapolations.”
Oh, the poor dear. Given the pandering to publicity she has carefully nurtured and the clear access to the levers of power afforded to her by her coterie, one finds it amazing that she has lacked any alacrity in the stemming of what she might see as slander, libel, skewing and distortion.
Any opinions counter to McIntosh’s counted for nought while her policy-making recommendations were in the ascendancy but now some key organisations, such as the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, are re-evaluating their position. Many of the Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) which offer the compulsory mediation required prior to custody awards made by Australia Family Court are revising their policies and advice to court staff regarding overnight care of infants.
Matt Stubbs, acting Clinical Services Director of “Interrelate” family centres is on record as saying:
“Given the new positions papers that have recently been published we will be reviewing the literature that we give to parents to help them make the best decisions they can for their children.”
Is it any wonder that McIntosh now feels she is under the microscope ?
Given the above and assuming blog readers have absorbed one or both of Arndt’s articles, one can imagine the consternation in the McIntosh coterie – for McIntosh has acolytes and is not entirely alone in her views, as my previous articles have pointed out (see below):
- “Israel gets McIntosh’ed” (May 2012) https://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/38/
- “Why McIntosh’s work should be ignored” (Dec 2011) http://equalparenting.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/12/
- “McIntosh’s Madness” (Dec 2011) http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/34/
- “Norgrove and McIntosh’s ‘junk science’” (Nov 2011) http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/33/
- “Australia’s Shared Parenting Experiment” (Sept 2009) http://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/1/
If Bettina Arndt reached anywhere near my conclusions (see URLs above), one can understand why McIntosh was in fear of any such careful and/or public scrutiny of her study. Her coterie are hyper-sensitive to criticisms as I have alluded to before; removing their Keystone totem from their theoretical architecture would collapse their edifice.
In 2007, McIntosh had published a report highly critical of the Australia’s Coalition government‘s shared custody reforms and her 2010 report was along the same lines. She then went on to wreck shared custody plans in the UK as this ‘Wicked Witch of the East’ turned her attentions northwards to Britain.
It was these two reports (2007 and 2010), that Bettina Arndt had in her critical sights.
Smacks of desperation
According to the grapevine, as soon as McIntosh heard that Bettina Arndt was preparing probably an in-depth story or an analysis of her 2010 study, fear must have gripped her and prompted her to act
And what is the best form of defence – attack.
Among the cerebral corridors one can imagine a re-run of the ‘Murdoch and News of the World’ panic scenario with a flurry of letters to editors, lawyers, politicians and anyone else she might have known to chime in on her side.
So against that background it would not be beyond speculation to envisage Dr. McIntosh (not even a professor but only a part time adjunct),), on a damage limitation exercise. This began with an assault upon Professor Warshak describing him as an ‘‘impassioned advocate’’ who was seeking to discredit her and driven by his own political agendas. Dr McIntosh added that her work had been ‘‘interpreted in a particular way by fathers’ rights groups for some time”. So by this she must mean that the 110 experts who endorsed Warshak’s paper were fathers’ rights advocates.
Duh ! ! Is this latent paranoia, or what ?
It was Prime Minister John Howard in 2005-06 who advocated a bigger role for fathers in their children’s lives but it was the Rudd government which opposed it in opposition and began dismantling it when Labor was elected in 2007. Rudd was a few years later stabbed in the back by his [political colleague Julia Gillard.
Philip Ruddock, the attorney-general who implemented the 2006 reform neatly summed it up ion this way:
“Our government supported the right of children to contact with both their parents, provided the child is not exposed to any risk.. . .. “Labor has sought to wind that back. They’ve long been captured by the female lobby determined to retain sole control over their children.”
One can reasonably suppose that the ‘determined female lobby’ referred to was comprised at least in part by McIntosh and her coterie because right out of the blocks in 2007, McIntosh published a report highly critical of the previous governments shared custody reforms when no data had actually had time to be compiled. So when Labor’s new attorney-general (Robert McClelland) was looking to appoint a lead researcher to “review” the subject, McIntosh and her new “pre-schoolers” study, was the obvious candidate. The results were only ever going to be bad news for children’s relationships with their fathers and a rolling back to a dark Gothic form of repressive child custody.
So obsessed with her reputation and overwhelmed by the feeling she’s been inexorably backed into a corner McIntosh doesn’t realise she is in this process of demeaning herself before the eyes of the academic world and that she has, in fact, delivered her own “coup to grace.”
McIntosh has tried to exonerate herself and duck the criticisms by reneging on her previous posturing and claiming that her research paper findings should not have been used for making policy:
“. . . .the conclusions in [her] research were only ever gender neutral, and cautionary only as to frequency of overnight care of infants in particular circumstances.’’ – Fairfax Media
One of the experts who endorsed the consensus paper which opposed McIntosh’s alleged findings was Don Edgar, director of the Australian Institute of Studies. He declared himself to be “disturbed” that research findings were used against fathers’ access to, and visiting rights with, young children. He went on:
“Those who endorsed Warshak’s careful review paper are not ideologists for men; they simply object to the misinterpretation of data [emphasis added] and its misuse in family law policy.
“Children need consistent contact to form bonds with fathers and other carers, not just mothers, and lack of early contact denies children both the right to dual parenting and to on-going child support from their fathers.”
So clearly he too, Don Edgar, saw McIntosh’s study being used by politicians for the formulation of policy and this interpretation was not limited to Civil Rights groups or fathers groups.
For decades now fathers have been targeted for not being consistent in their contact visits with their children (mainly to do with the paying of child support and the type of award given). Across Europe in the region of 40% of children of divorced parents later lose contact with their father. And for decades past all governments, though badly advised by committees packed with feminists groups, have tried to address the issue but to no avail.
The one and only time government got it right, in the English speaking world, was in Australia. The solution as fathers groups had universally been trying to impress on both politicians and academic alike could only be shared parenting.
But perversely, that same group – though for another reason – now want to call a halt to this progress and consign fathers and children to creatures visited at Zoos – and as infrequently.
It is just possible for McIntosh to snatch victory out of these particular jaws if she continues her redemption; her epiphany; her Damascene conversion.
Diana Bryant, the Chief Justice of Australia’s Family Court, is reported as saying that she expected her court’s personnel, including judges, family consultants and experts to be familiar with current research, including recent developments regarding overnight care.
If that turns out to be true then there are real signs of a new consensus which could profoundly affect current policies. But will McIntosh give up her spots so easily ?