Oct 09, 2023 – Linda Perlis, an experienced social worker (and former family law lawyer to boot!)
Gene C. Colman Introduction: Linda Perlis, an experienced social worker (and former family law lawyer to boot!) comments on “attachment”. See our ESP Thought of the Day Sept. 5, 2023 where Prof. Nielsen gives her critique of “attachment” as applied to fathers. In this week’s newsletter, we turn to chapter five of Prof. Nielsen’s book and we learn about the economic fallacies that have been foisted onto us.
I am a former family law lawyer and social worker who has been working at the intersection of law and mental health/divorce for over 45 years. I love your newsletter and we are on the same page professionally!
I just want to caution you about “attachment” assessments which you pan in this current email. No mental health professional that I have been aware of in our jurisdiction assesses attachment to parents by employing the “strange” test for purposes of recommending parenting plans. I have never done this myself and I have done hundreds of s. 30 Assessments. This paradigm is used only in research settings. When assessing attachment I observe each parent in a natural and comfortable environment and, especially with children under the age of about 5, I exercise extreme caution in drawing any conclusions about attachment.
I am a family mediator, arbitrator, parenting plan developer, reunification therapist, parent coordinator etc. I have always been very father forward, in no small measure due to my personal experiences as a co parent with my husband with whom I co-shared parenting of our two daughters who are now in their 30’s.
I consider myself an expert in attachment theory as well as a therapy practitioner of numerous modalities of therapy. I follow your emails and the excerpts from Nielsen’s book, which I confess I have not read yet.
I think that “attachment” has become a buzzword in the divorce community and it is not well understood by lawyers, judges and members of the divorce services community. No one can accurately assess “attachment” clinically in children under the age of about 5. As assessors we can only note responses on a given day that seem attuned or responses that seem questionable. Of course, there are extreme situations where either the mother or the father seem “off”, but all of this has to be set off against all the different behaviours that are normal, like strange anxiety and, breastfeeding and post partum depression. etc. The whole context of the assessment of attachment is very fluid and not as cut and dry as judges would like. Some time I should actually do a seminar on “attachment” in the context of parenting plans and custody disputes.
Young children are changeable. Their behaviours may relate to whether they are teething or whether they have had a good nap. They have to be observed with each parent multiple times as parents too vary wildly in their presentation. I look for obvious miscues in either parent such as whether they seem concerned and comforting if the child accidentally hurts themselves, or whether they make good eye contact, or whether they followed the direction of the child in play or whether physical affection was natural and spontaneous. That is why I stopped doing assessments when Covid hit because attachment cannot be assessed virtually.
Right now I am still actively doing reunification therapy (I have a model for that) and therapy for kids in divorced families in addition to my clinical practice which is focussed mainly on therapy with adolescents and young adults in their 20’s and 30’s. I am primarily a clinician, which many divorce professionals are not, and this is why they don’t understand attachment.
I do not have a website yet, (it is in the works), but I have a presence on Psychology Today and also Linkedin. I am firmly committed to equal, shared parenting. I can be a stickler for actual 50% time share and shared decision making, which BTW, I consider as even more important as shared physical custody. I did my Masters thesis in 1983 on joint custody, when it was just emerging as an option.
I moved to Guelph about 18 months ago. While I have only been virtual since Covid, I have now opened an office in Guelph.
Stay tuned to upcoming ESP Thoughts of the Day for more insightful excerpts from Prof. Nielsen’s book.
Gene C. Colman comments further
There is more than one way to come to the conclusion that a rebuttable presumption for Equal Shared Parenting is simply the logical way to go. Linda Nielsen gets there by one route and Linda Perlis gets there by a slightly different route. But what the Perlis analysis demonstrates so clearly is that no matter how ya slice it, Equal Shared Parenting is best for kids!