Intent of this Review
The producers, Professor Meier, and others have claimed that scholarly research support exists for their assertions. The intent of the following review is to examine the research foundations for the key assertions and impressions made by the film.
We do not claim to have reviewed the entire literature on the questions that are raised. To do so would be a massive undertaking. Instead, we have focused more narrowly on the specific publications identified by the producers and the major figures in the film as supporting their claims. In particular, we have reviewed 18 of the most relevant studies. Since the key figures in the film are put forward as experts, it is reasonable to rely upon their identification of the most important publications supporting their point of view.
Specific Assertions of Concern
This critique responds to the film itself, the Viewer’s Guide, statements made by the producers and/or key figures in interviews, press releases surrounding the film, and communications directly from Connecticut Public Television and Professor Joan Meier to Fathers & Families. The primary emphasis will be on assertions contained in the film itself.
Among other claims, the film and/or its supporting materials allege the following:
“In custody cases where the mother alleges battery by the father, the father is awarded custody two-thirds of the time.”
“…Numerous studies have confirmed that approximately 75% [of custody disputes that go to court] involve a history of violence.”
“Many studies of awards of custody have found that large percentages award sole or joint custody to abusive fathers.”
“When an advocate raises a claim [of domestic violence], it enrages the court, the equivalent of throwing a bomb. It is seen as outrageous and extreme, and you’re going to have to meet an extremely high burden of proof to prove it’s true.”
“Gardner’s research [on parental alienation syndrome] has been thoroughly debunked by the American Psychological Association and every other credible scientific expert who’s looked at Gardner’s work has said there’s no scientific validity to it…”
“Children are in most danger from their fathers.”
The film and those connected to it repeatedly assert that batterers win shared or sole custody approximately 67% of the time, the only data available in the cited publications show results of 3% (American Psychological Association, p. 39), 9% (Kernic), 16% (Neilson), and 18% (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts). For various technical reasons, none of these studies is precisely comparable to the figure quoted by the film’s advocates, and all of the publications are either faulty in design or reported in insufficient detail to reach conclusions. Nevertheless, the results certainly fail to support the film’s contentions, and strongly suggest contrary