Johnston, J. R., Lee, S., Olesen, N. W., Walters, M. G. (2005) “Allegations and Substantiations of Abuse in Custody-Disputing Families.” Family Court Review, 43, 283 – 294.
Meier claims that in the small percentage of “high-conflict” custody conflicts that actually go to trial, more than half involve domestic violence against the mother. Unfortunately, Johnston’s study fails to support this conclusion because it did not sample a representative population of cases described above. This is not a retrospective cohort analysis, as has been claimed. The authors tell us only that these are cases from the top of the conflict pyramid (the most contentious cases), in whom court-ordered mediation had failed. The cases were then referred from the family courts, half for a custody evaluation, and half for custody counseling. Thus, it is clear that these 120 cases are not representative of custody disputes in general, and it even seems highly unlikely that these cases are representative of just those high conflict cases that actually go to trial.
Within this highly selected and unrepresentative sample, the majority of allegations of domestic violence against fathers were substantiated, but the same was true of allegations against mothers.
With regard to child abuse, the authors conclude, “…it would appear that this hypothesis [that fathers are more likely to be subjected to unsubstantiated allegations] may be supported within the domain of child abuse allegations.”
Kernic, M. A. et al. (2005). “Children in the Crossfire: Child Custody Determinations Among Couples with a History of Intimate Partner Violence.” Violence Against Women, 11(8), 991-1021.
This is a retrospective cohort analysis of all divorces in Seattle during 1998 and 1999. It is of scholarly quality, in that it is published in a recognized journal, the authors have academic affiliations and research experience, it is adequately referenced, the methodology is explained in some detail, and the results are subjected to statistical analysis.
Unfortunately, it shares several generic faults with most of the domestic violence literature. It refuses to deal with domestic violence perpetrated by females, it equates allegations of domestic violence with actual domestic violence, the definition of domestic violence includes a large but unknown number of incidents that were not violent, and it fails to distinguish between degrees of domestic violence, treating a harmless shove two years earlier the same as a vicious beating yesterday.
In this study, allegations of domestic violence were considered “substantiated” if the mother had taken out a restraining order against the father at any time in the previous few years, or if there had been a police report of a domestic incident any time in the past five years. Unfortunately, the existence of such documents does not substantiate the occurrence of violence. For instance, in Massachusetts, 49% of restraining orders are granted on the basis that the complainant fears that an incident may occur in the future; thus, in half of the restraining orders, no incident of violence has occurred. In the other half, the restraining order is granted because of an allegation