Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Newsweek rebutted

There are some letters to Newsweek complaining about the story below, including this:
I hear it everywhere--on playdates, at the park, at school with my children--the sound of mothers denigrating the way their husbands parent. While moms and dads are different, neither is more important than the other. But somehow it seems we feel more comfortable criticizing the fathers. NEWSWEEK sure did with such a one-sided article about parental alienation syndrome. Whenever I read articles like this or hear those mothers at school, I always wonder if they have sons. And if they do, what are they going to think about all this when their boys are on the receiving end of these bitter battles?
Yes, women sure know how to complain about men.

I found the cited 2004 Harvard survey. It turns out that it was not a random survey at all. It was based on 39 women who had volunteered to gripe about their ex-husbands and the family court. In order to qualify for the survey, the women had to express dissatisfaction with the family court violating their rights. Then this supposedly scientific study found that most of them had lost their cases!

You could use this methodology to justify any complaint about the courts. If you wanted to prove that judges discriminate against redheads, you could just find a bunch of redheads who had been to court, restrict attention to those redheads who had bitter complaints about the court, and then ask how many of them had lost their cases. This work is completely bogus.

I also looked at what the study meant by "documented spousal abuse". I naively assumed that it meant that there was some sort of finding of abuse by some judge or other neutral party. It turns out that it just means that there was some piece of paper showing that the woman had complained of abuse, regardless of whether anyone thought that the complaint had any merit. On the other hand, the women were not considered abusers unless there was a complaint that had been "substantiated".

Then the paper concludes:
Our findings indicate that in specified documented cases, state actors in the Massachusetts family courts may be failing to act in accordance with international human rights standards when making child custody and visitation recommendations and decisions in cases involving IPV [intimate partner violence].
The cited human rights are generalities like these:
punish acts of violence ... the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration ... No one shall be subjected to torture ... without distinction of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
But the article fails to find even one example of an unpunished act of violence or other human rights violation. What the authors really want to do is to punish the children based on unsubstantiated allegations by the mom against the dad when they were formerly living together. That would violate those human rights.

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