Post-Separation Visitation Disputes: Differential Interventions
The relationships between children's level of adjustment, degree of parental communication, satisfaction with the service, and settlement, were investigated by a number of instruments (both standardized and exploratory) as well as a review of court records. Given that results obtained from different informants are not consistent, (Johnston, 1994; Offord et al., 1996; Twaite, Silitsky and Luchow, 1998), multiple informants were used to provide data.
The following section describes the measures used at baseline (Time 1) and follow-up (Time 2).
1) Child Behavior Checklist: Parent and Teacher Rating Form (Appendix 2)
Children's adjustment was measured by using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach, 1979; Achenbach and Edelbrock, 1979 and 1983). The CBCL is a widely used instrument that invites the informant to respond to 113 questions regarding the frequency and the severity of symptoms that their child has exhibited over the past six months. This scale has established norms according to age group and gender of the child. The questionnaire yields nine subscales. When specific subscales are combined, they yield T-scores that reflect the child's total behaviour, internalizing behaviour (withdrawn, somatic complaints, anxiety and depression), externalizing behaviour (aggression and delinquency, such as fire setting, lying) and social competence (activities, social and school). The higher the score, the more problematic the behaviour. Both the custodial and non-custodial parent filled in this form.
With respect to child adjustment at school, the Teacher Report Form (TRF; Achenbach and Edelbrock, 1986) of the CBCL was also used. This is a checklist of 113 types of behaviour, similar in form to the parents' version. The child's teacher completed the TRF, based on the child's behaviour in the classroom during the previous two months. (7)
2) Ahrons Communication Form (Appendix 3)
This scale assessed parental level of communication with respect to child-rearing obligations and responsibilities (Ahrons, 1981). This is a 10-item questionnaire scale designed to assess the parents' perception of interactions between the custodial and noncustodial parent in relation to child-rearing issues and responsibilities. The psychometric properties for this scale are .93 for women and .92 for men, indicating a high degree of overall consistency.
3) Satisfaction Interview (Appendix 4)
A follow-up satisfaction questionnaire was used at Time 2 and consisted of the following questions: satisfaction with current parenting arrangements, level of parental conflict and cooperation, satisfaction with the service (focussed vs traditional) on a scale of 1 to 5. Many of the questions incorporated in this structured interview had been used in previous studies of disputing parents (Austin and Jaffe, 1992; Birnbaum and Radovanovic, 1999; Radovanovic et al., 1990). The satisfaction scale exhibits high internal consistency (.90) (Austin and Jaffe, 1990).
4) Treatment Fidelity Checklist (Appendix 5)
Evidence regarding the fidelity of the intervention is a methodological challenge. The absence of such evidence weakens the findings of clinical intervention studies (Moncher and Prinz, 1991; Kazdin 1986, 1994). There are two types of treatment fidelity. The first type refers to the degree to which a treatment condition has been implemented as it was intended. The second type refers to treatment differentiation; that is, the degree to which the treatment conditions differ from one another so that the manipulation of the independent variable occurs as planned. Child custody evaluations are not considered
"therapy."However, there is an educational component to helping parents understand the impact of conflict upon their children (Johnston, 1994). Presently there is no literature that addresses treatment fidelity with respect to child custody evaluations. Therefore, in order to minimize the implications with respect to internal validity and external validity problems, a number of steps were followed as suggested in the literature (Kazdin, 1986). The first step in this study was to develop a manual for social workers that outlined the two interventions and provided detailed information regarding the processes and procedures to follow when conducting either the focussed or traditional evaluation (Appendix 6). Second, every two months a meeting was held with the social workers who conducted the evaluations (each social worker carried out both interventions) in order to address any problems and concerns they had about implementing the interventions in the form in which they were intended (Kazdin, 1986). Third, two 10-item questionnaires were developed addressing process-related components of the two interventions (focussed vs traditional) that each parent and social worker completed. This allowed a further check to ascertain the extent to which each parent received the intended intervention and that each social worker adhered to that particular intervention. The exploratory questions contained in these questionnaires were developed using a qualitative technique referred to as the Delphi technique (Dalkey, 1972).
Three Delphi panelists were selected according to their knowledge and expertise in the field of child custody evaluations. One expert was a psychologist and the other two experts were social workers who had worked in the field of separation and divorce for more than twenty years. Each expert returned the questions until opinion consensus was reached on all 40 questions.
5) Children's Lawyer Intake Questionnaire (Appendix 7)
Demographic information was collected from the Children's Lawyer Intake Form, which is used to determine whether the Office accepts the case before the court. In the majority of cases, both parents filled out the intake form. The form requests information about the parents' age, income, the age and gender of the child, the length of time since the separation, the length of the relationship, ethnicity, and concerns that each parent has about the other with respect to child-rearing and child-care responsibilities. The Hollingshead Four Factor Index of Social Status was used to estimate the socio-economic status of each parent by combining education and occupation (Hollingshead, 1975; Hollingshead and Redlich, 1958).
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