Post-Separation Visitation Disputes: Differential Interventions




The sample was comprised of 94 biological mothers and 94 biological fathers. The age distribution of this sample was between 20 and 56 years. The mean age of mothers was 32.81 (SD= 6.33) and the mean age of fathers was 34.98 (SD= 6.54). The age difference between mothers and fathers was statistically significant, t(87)=-3.83, p<.05. The majority of parents were born in Canada (65 percent), while 35 percent came from different backgrounds (Asian, West Indian and European).

The mean income level of mothers was $22,701.25 (SD=$17,499.51) and the mean income level of fathers was $27,164.31 (SD=$18,187.65). The difference in mean income level between mothers and fathers was statistically significant, t(42)=-1.74, p<.05. These figures are similar to the Canadian national average of $22,493 for females with single children under the age of 18 years and $31, 670 for males with single children under the age of 18 years (Statistics Canada, 1997).

There were a total of 92 children in the sample. The age distribution was between 5 and 16 years. The overall mean age of the child was 7.51 (SD=2.63). There were 45 boys with a mean age of 7.42 (SD=3.05) and 47 girls with a mean age 7.60 (SD=2.19).

Table 1: Socio-economic status by parents' gender

Mother Father Total
% N % N % N
Unskilled labourers, menial service workers 11.7 11 12.7 12 24.4 23
Machine operators semi-skilled workers 55.3 52 48.9 46 104.2 98
Skilled craftsmen, clerica, sales workers 14.8 14 15.9 15 30.7 29
Medium business, minor, professional, technical 7.4 7 6.4 6 13.8 13
Major business and professional 3.1 3 5.3 5 8.4 8

Table 1 illustrates that the majority of custodial mothers' and non-custodial fathers' socio-economic status (combined education and employment) ranged from machine operators and semi-skilled workers (55 percent and 50 percent, Hollingshead level 4) to skilled craftsmen, clerical and sales workers (15 percent and 16 percent, Hollingshead level 3) to unskilled labourers and menial service workers (12 percent and 13 percent, Hollingshead level 5). Twenty-one percent of the parents had a college or university education. Mothers were employed 60 percent of the time and were supplemented by family benefits or a student loan. Fathers were employed 70 percent of the time and were being supplemented by family benefits and/or workers compensation. A lawyer represented 88 percent of mothers and 90 percent of fathers at the time of their dispute.

The parents were in a relationship for an average of five years. The majority of these parents were involved in either a common-law relationship, had dated for a few weeks and/or were boyfriend/girlfriend (77 percent). Twenty-three percent of the parents were married. They had been separated from each other for more than four years and reported that they had been previously involved in the court system for more than 3 years. The majority of the parents had only one child from their relationship (57 percent). Thirty-two percent had two children and 11 percent had three children in their relationship. This compares to the Canadian national average number of children in lone-parent families of 2.5 children (Statistics Canada, 1998).

Mothers had sole custody of their child 86 percent of the time, fathers had sole custody 12 percent of the time, and each shared joint custody 2 percent of the time. These figures are comparable to the Canadian divorce figures with regard to children in the sole custody of their mothers 85 percent of the time, as well as to the research literature (Austin and Jaffe, 1990; Johnston, 1994; Radovanovic et al., 1994; Statistics Canada, 1998).

Table 2: Concerns raised by each parent about the other regarding their child (N=94)

Neglect 8 4
Physical abuse 8 12
Sexual abuse 5 2
Other concerns (8) 15 8
Violence toward child 35 8
Child often heard parents fighting 42 27

Table 2 presents a number of allegations each parent raised against the other with respect to the care of the child and the level of conflict the child had been exposed to. Eighty-four percent of mothers reported that they experienced violence and/or abuse in their relationship and 36 percent of fathers reported that there was violence and/or abuse in their relationship.

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