If you read this blog frequently, you know that I deal a fair amount with international child abduction and therefore with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. So it was with considerable interest that I read this article on the subject (Time, 12/10/10).
It’s quite a corker. In a nutshell, it uses a study that’s so bad as to be almost spurious to promote the article’s astonishingly anti-father bias. To its credit, the magazine makes no effort to hide its slant which, not coincidentally is roughly identical to that of the study’s authors.
The Hague Convention was originally drawn up to address the problem of parents absconding with children across international borders. That was in 1980. Few would argue that it does a terribly good job of returning children promptly to their countries of residence. As but one example, the Convention states as its goal the return of kidnapped children within six weeks of the filing of a complaint. Tell that to David Goldman, the New Jersey man who fought the Brazilian courts for five years with the help of the United States Department of State before finally getting back his son Sean.
Still, the Convention is what we have, but back in 2006, a British law professor looked at cases brought under the Convention and learned that 68% of abducting parents were mothers. That leads Time to ask,
So what happens, three decades later, when research indicates that 68% of the abducting parents in cases under this treaty are mothers — and that many of them are fleeing abusive spouses?
To which the obvious answer should be, “Nothing.” Without evidence showing that the courts aren’t competent to deal with claims of abuse by parents, why should the Convention be changed? After all, the Convention and the laws of most (or possibly all) of the signatory countries contain protections for abused spouses and children. As usual, the complaint is based on the entirely unproven theory that family courts don’t care about mothers’ claims of abuse.
So the first hint we have of Time’s anti-dadism is its assumption that, because the kidnappers caught in the Convention’s net are mothers, the law must be defective and something must be done.
Now, anyone who follows the weak, sporadic attempts of governments to equalize mothers and fathers in family law knows that the anti-dad forces have essentially one argument which they make again and again and again. They claim that fathers are “batterers” and therefore must be carefully scrutinized before allowing them contact with their children. We see this so often most of us could write the studies/articles/speeches ourselves and not a few of us could do so in our sleep. It goes something like this:
Any mother who violates the parental rights of a father is justified in doing so because she’s protecting herself or the child from abuse by him. All claims of abuse by a mother must be taken on faith as true. All protestations of innocence by the father are false and cynical. In some unexplained way, fathers so control family courts that mothers’ pleas of abuse go unheeded. Pretty much anything can constitute “battering” by the dad. So endeth the lesson.
Thus no one should be surprised if the study touted by the article followed some version of the above. And right on cue, enter stage left researchers Jeffrey Edleson and Taryn Lindhorst, followed closely by, Time Magazine dressed as Fool.
I’ll leave criticism of their study to a later post, but here are a few teasers: it’s 404 pages long but Edleson and Lindhorst interviewed a scant 22 mothers who claimed abuse; no fathers were interviewed; no judges were interviewed; the authors evince no skepticism of the mothers’ claims; the “definition of abuse” is laughably broad and the authors themselves all but admit that their findings cannot be generalized.
But to Time, all of that is perfectly acceptable. And why not? The article’s approach to journalism bears a striking resemblance to the methodology of the stud, i.e. ask no questions of anyone who might disagree with your assumptions. So, in the same way that the study avoids interviewing accused fathers or the judges who ruled on the claims of abuse, the article refuses to inquire of anyone who might have a conflicting point of view.
Stated another way, Edleson and Lindhorst do shoddy science; Time does shoddy journalism.
Apparently great minds think alike.