Why is it of such importance to professionals and parents?
Penelope Leach’s forthcoming new book, aimed at ensuring that children come first when parents separate, is at the forefront of efforts by the Mindful Policy Group (MPG) to both reform family law and to ensure that society in general keeps children in mind through the understanding of all our fundamental psychological needs. In separation and divorce, children’s psychological well-being is improved when their parents find a way to share parenting in a collaborative way, without engaging in long term animosity and conflict with each other. Sponsorship raised for the book is crucial to this process, as Penelope (as one of the founder directors of MPG), has granted all the proceeds to support the aims of the organisation which comprises a multi-disciplinary team of experts working to create a more humane and caring society.
It does so by promoting evidence-based psychological, biological and social research, and bringing it to the attention of politicians, policy-makers and opinion leaders, with the goal of radically changing public policy and public attitudes. The book is based on contemporary attachment science providing a cogent and comprehensive explanation of human development. At its core is a detailed and growing understanding of brain development. The latest neuroscience, underpinned by advances in brain-scanning techniques, reveals how five-sixths of every baby’s brain develops after birth. How it grows and weaves itself together and functions throughout life is largely dictated by the intimate experiences he or she shares with the mother from the last antenatal months and the relationship built with parents or other attachment figures during the first three years.
Attachment relationships are the drivers and foundations of lifelong development. Disturbed or disrupted childhood attachment can predispose children to a broad spectrum of mental and physical ill-health in adulthood, including major causes of mortality. Such damaged individuals need massive support via the care, benefit, housing, judicial, penal and health services. The full cost of this breakdown is analysed annually by the Relationship Foundation and it is currently estimated at almost £46bn a year in Great Britain. Family Law is in ‘free fall’, children are being further psychologically damaged by the system itself but there is now for the first time the opportunity to embed the vast and highly evidenced knowledge of human development and the supporting neuroscience into facilitating better decision making in family law matters.
MPG is prioritising the deeper understanding of divorce and child arrangement disputes where the adversarial nature of the family court system pits one parent against another. This often leads to them using children as weapons in marital wars of which they are the victims. Penelope book “Family Breakdown: helping children hang on to both their parents”- which contains at its core extensive advice how such bad treatment must be avoided, is key to facilitating such change.
Penelope says about the book:
“This book is written for mothers and fathers who have separated or divorced or intend to do so; for their extended families and prospective new partners, and for the many professionals who support and advise them. Above all, though, the book is written to help those parents help their children.
“Divorcing or separating feels like intensely adult business that leaves little energy for anything else, but if there are children involved it is very much their business as well. The end of your marriage means the breakdown of their family. They need you both.”