The hidden half of domestic violence
How to have eternal life
Children and civilized society need fathers
Thanks to Roger Eldridge
for sending us the following.
This is a copy of the letter I sent to the newspapers today in response to
the article, which follows, about Helen Greally and mediation.
In the Irish Times yesterday Dr Helen Greally called for more resources,
especially mediation services run by psychologists like herself, to be given
to help couples with children who are separating.
Dr Greally is well known as a psychologist who believes that mothers are
the primary carers for children and that fathers need to be relegated, for
the sake of the child's 'stability', to playing the peripheral role of
having 'access' once a fortnight.
With this sort of old-fashioned prejudice, mediation turns out to be nothing
more than an expensive and long-drawn-out process where the children become
"established" with the mother who has invariably claimed dominion over them,
making it even more difficult for the father to ever achieve parity of
esteem for his role as a parent and be able to renew his loving relationship
with his children.
Her insistence that the mother is essential and the father peripheral to the
well-being of children flies in the face of all known studies as well as
If all we were trying to do is to raise wild animals then yes, all humans
need do is follow the example of all God's other creatures where the female
is allotted that role without much help from the father.
Uniquely in the animal kingdom however humans have evolved in societies as a
result of the caring by both parents in balance. the nurturing tendency of
mothers and importantly, though barely ever acknowledged, the socialising
tendency of fathers.
Fathers achieve this in their children from birth simply by doing what they
do and very few mothers do they play with their offspring. Almost as
soon as the child opens its eyes fathers initiate games of surprise and
result with them, and continue adding ever more elaborate layers of complex
What fathers are doing, almost certainly without realising it themselves, is
to introduce their children to the world of rules where referees of various
sorts exist, where penalties for disobeying are faced up to and where the
rewards and benefits of complying are understood.
Men have, since history was recorded, invented games from tiddly-winks to
chess. Women have never invented any. They do not see the need. In fact,
though hard to agree, Maureen Gaffney recently said on the Pat Kenny show
that women do not really believe in rules.
The justice system, democracy and society itself are merely 'games' with
complex rules that men have invented in order that large groups of humans
might live together peaceably.
Without this socialising influence of fathers children grow up without the
ability to comprehend the nature of society itself. They are not initiated
into the concept of rules and the father, the person who is most able to set
them limits in their daily lives by reinforcing the concept of 'playing the
game', is absent.
The feminist notion that men are responsible for the patriarchal society is
absolutely correct. Men truly 'invented' society. The flaw in the feminist
analysis is to assume that men use the structure and safety of rules as a
means of oppressing women. Common sense informs all those except extreme
feminists that women are the main benefactors of this civilly organised society.
The enforced absence of fathers in the daily lives of their children, as
required to appease these feminists, is already having the inevitable
result. Our streets daily become more dangerous places to walk because the
young people have less and less sense of behaving like civilised people and
start to exhibit more anti-social behaviour. This can be seen in a gross
form in the father-absent matriarchal ghettoes of the US where law and order
have broken down completely.
The starting point for any civil society is to recognise that, even though
they may take different responsibilities in their partnership to provide for
and protect their offspring, mothers and fathers are equally important to
Once this is recognised and respected, especially in the courts by mandating
that on separation the parents retain joint custody and 50-50 shared
residence, a lot of the impulse towards separating actually decreases and
this must be a good thing.
This is actually what has happened in the pioneer states of America like
Oklahoma where after introducing such a simple amendment to their family law
statutes applications for divorce and separation dwindled to a trickle and
parents indeed decided to sort things out between themselves and through
mediation, as suggested by Dr Greally.
Without the amendment though mediation has no teeth, children will continue
to be denied the love, caring and protection of their father and society
will inevitably sink for want of the benign patriarchy.
The Irish Times
Monday, March 04, 2002
Call for State help for separating couples
by Michelle McDonagh
The Irish legal system alone cannot deal with the complex psychological,
social and emotional issues surrounding separation and families who have to
redefine their structure and existence. Such is the belief of a clinical
psychologist, Dr Helen Greally, who highlights the need for a properly
State-funded intervention service for separating couples at which attendance
would be mandatory before children became involved.
Although separation is a painful process with many factors influencing it,
Dr Greally, who is based in Galway, says public debate fails to take account
of the many couples who separate well, causing as little distress as possible
to their children. Perhaps, she suggests, we should be working with these
couples to use their knowledge and life experiences to help other couples.
Dr Greally believes that one of the primary factors in the outcome of
marital breakdown is the type of communication that has existed in the
relationship to date.
If it was always a very conflicted type of communication, why should it be
any different when going through the traumatic process of separation?
Another significant factor is whether the separation is agreed between the
parents. It is when parents are at different stages on their journey towards
separation that conflict and bitterness are more likely to be present, she says.
Over the past 20 years, parents have been getting the strong message to keep
their conflicts away from their children, but Dr Greally believes that the
children who have had no warning of problems in the marriage are more at
risk that those children who grew up with conflict and who knew and maybe
even wished for what was to come.
Intervention with couples for at least six months before any change in
living arrangements should be essential, according to Dr Greally, so that
when children become aware of the situation, they are presented with parents
who are clear about what they are doing.
She explains: "Having made the decision to separate, the options for
separation range from private arrangements to fully contested court battles
where the analogy of all-out war is the only one that would reflect what
happens. In this scenario, people say and behave in ways that would be
completely outside their normal behaviour in everyday life. Terrible
accusations are levelled, often without any foundation and only because
the parent is driven to hurt the other parent as much as possible."
Another concern of Dr Greally is a polarisation regarding the role of men
and women and their respective treatment by the legal system. A recurring
theme in marital breakdown, she says, is that very few parents have any role
model about how to separate well, and are often relying on friends and
acquaintances who have been through the experience themselves and may
have ongoing difficulties.
She explains: "In the current debate, the focus which should be on parents
and children is being sidetracked by emphasis on the mother/father custody
battle and the rising rate of child death. We need to be aware of these
issues, but this is not the only forum in which to examine them. To explain
this increase by saying that fathers are being alienated and removed from
their childrens' lives pays very little tribute to those many, many fathers
who continue to be involved but do not resort to such drastic and
"Neither does it recognise the many, many mothers who respect the role
of fathers in their childrens' lives and make a significant contribution
towards maintaining and protecting this. Each case of adult separation is
unique and challenging and using simplistic arguments in the debate is
regrettable and unhelpful," she says.
While the State-funded Family Mediation Service has been a positive and
welcome addition to this area, Dr Greally points out that the very couples
who most need this service will frequently attend only once or twice, and
then stop - because the issues being raised are too painful and the reality
of the marital breakdown becomes too immediate.
Interventions apart from the legal system should be available to these
families along with the provision of a State-funded separation intervention
service, she believes.
For the small number of parents who still need recourse to the legal system,
Dr Greally suggests the establishment of an independent panel of childcare
professionals with knowledge of the issues involved as this would
considerably shorten the long case lists in the family law courts.
"We frequently refer to children as our greatest assets. Is it not time then
that we started to seriously address the needs of this very important group
of children whose future psychological well-being may depend to a
considerable degree on the ability of their parents to separate in a healthy
and fair fashion?" she asks.
Readers who wish to contact this column may do so by dialling: 01 6758627
© The Irish Times
© 2002 ireland.com
Irish Times Home: http://www.ireland.com/
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