also emphasises the importance of children having other attachment figures in their lives such as grandparents who may take the place of an absent parent. This helps children to adjust.40
Effect of access on child’s adjustment to divorce
1.29Isaac et al41 compared the adjustment over a period of three years of children of non-clinical and clinical families. They found that the way in which the first 12 months was handled was critical, as it affected the rate of child adjustment when measured at the end of the third year after divorce. As regards access, they found that having consistent, scheduled visits was more salient than frequency of access. Other data revealed that “scheduled visiting by non-custodial fathers was the single best predictor of child social competence by the end of year 3”.42 However, most children, like adults, after two or three years will adjust successfully. For a minority of children the short term consequences of the divorce can leave them vulnerable to long term harm.43
1.30In apparently conflicting findings, some research showed that in North America about half of all children who are in the custody of their mothers seldom or never see their father,44 while more recent research showed that 65% of fathers visited their children at least every other week.45 It appears that access frequency is inversely related to child age and the time that has elapsed since separation.46
1.31In the past, access was seen as a consolation prize for not being granted custody. Some authors have challenged the assumption that access is in the best interests of children if there is a high level of hostility between the parents. Goldstein et al47 questioned the wisdom of granting access except on a very limited basis. The decision would be left to the custodian who would end access if it appeared to threaten the custodian’s relationship with the child.
1.32However, more recent research has stressed the importance of access for children. Most of this research “suggests that child adjustment is directly related to visitation frequency; more frequent contact is associated with improved child adjustment”.48 Some studies say that the correlation between access by a father and the child’s adjustment is more marked when the visits have the mother’s support and approval.49 However, some studies report no relationship between the child’s
40 Guidubaldi and others, “The impact of parental divorce on children; Report of the nationwide NASP study,” School Psychology Review, 12, (1983), 300-323.
41 (1986) Supra.
42 Irving and Benjamin, supra at 69-70.
43 Ibid at 72.
44 Furstenberg & Spanier, Recycling the family; Remarriage after divorce (1984).
45 Healy, Malley and Stewart, “Children and their fathers after divorce”, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, (1990), 60, 531-545.
46 Arditti, “Differences between fathers with joint custody and noncustodial fathers”, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, (1992), 62, 186-195.
47 Goldstein, Freud and Solnit, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973).
48 Hetherington, “Divorce; A child’s perspective”, American Psychologist, 34, 851-8 (1979), referred to in Irving and Benjamin, supra at 66.
49 Guidubaldi & Perry, “Divorce and mental health sequelae for children; A two year follow-up of a nationwide sample”, Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 24, 531-537. (1985).