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Children in focus (II)

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Product Description

By Lawrie Moloney

Published: 2003
Pages: 152



Lawrie Maloney PhD
School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne

The aim of the 'Children in Focus' project has been to bring together the best research and practices available for the purpose of supporting children and families through periods of transition, especially when those periods are associated with high levels of conflict. Through this ongoing project, the Commonwealth and the Family Court have recognized that children's needs are paramount in matters of family conflict.

This Special Issue continues to focus on separation and divorce and the multitude of transitional events that have the potential to enrich or destabilise the lives of children in families, and specifically on material generated from the 'Children In Focus' program.

In this Issue, we have included the results of a very interesting research project conducted at the University of Thessaloniki on professionals' thoughts and fears about dealing with the emergence of mental illness within the family. The research by Ionanna Bibou-Nakou points to tensions around how to communicate what is happening to the children and how to discuss and deal with issues of parental competence.

Penny Holmes has written a very engaging piece in the Practice Notes section, which illustrates some of the subtleties that can be involved within the practice of child-focused mediation. In the case described, the two children were at considerable risk of losing all meaningful contact with their father, whilst they continued to be hyper-vigilant about their mother's wellbeing. Holmes' article is complemented by Smyth and Moloney's substantial review of the range of research-based approaches to divorce mediation that include counselling or therapeutic input. These approaches, when combined with child-focused practices, can hold considerable promise for families at the high conflict end of the spectrum.

A step beyond clinical responses to individual families - group interventions for separated parents in entrenched conflict - is considered by McIntosh and Deacon-Wood. The authors review the existing research, which, they note, 'is trying to catch up with the rapid development of separation education and treatment programs of the past decade'. This gap between practice and research is especially notable in Australia, making it particularly important that current programs include funding for a careful evaluation of outcomes.

McIntosh's article on children and domestic violence comes from developmental perspective. She grapples with distinctions between parental conflict and domestic violence but clearly supports moves away from earlier comforting but ultimately false notions of children as 'silent witnesses' to violence. McIntosh points to recent research that links exposure to violence with damage to neurological pathways. She identifies infancy and adolescence as times of special vulnerability.

The article by Fisher addresses the often-neglected subject of how mediators and conciliators communicate about children and parenting, with a lawyer whose duty is to act on behalf of a parent. Importantly, too, he reflects on ways in which mediators and lawyers may find areas of common ground.

The very important article by Murphy and Pike points to where the future may well lie in dealing with violence and child abuse allegations within the Family Court. Importantly, the quite painstaking work of Murphy and Pike reported here, places this approach within a carefully costed framework. The key to success appears to be sound management and cooperation across the professions. I

This Special Issue is designed to stimulate and embolden readers to join in the debates and discussions on children in conflict and as such is important reading for academics, researchers, administrators, mediators, lawyers and clinicians working with children and conflict.

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