McIntosh slowly concedes – or does she ?

The consensus of three

McIntosh has shot her bolt. Unable now to get subsequent papers published one could surmise that her blade has been well and truly blunted. No longer does her narrative alone scythe its way through the opposition and into the headlines, as once it did.

Yet ever determined to defy gravity she calls upon the opinions of a coterie of 2 other authors (Marsha Pruett, Joan Kelly and, of course herself, Jenn McIntosh), to provide the world with a ‘consensus’ and a “consensus perspective.” This she puts together in a paper entitled “Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children, Part II: Putting Theory into Practice”  (April 2014. Just how over-blown is the opinion of their own work can be summed up by referring to their belief that they have distilled ”empirical and theoretical perspectives” (see ). [1]

A consensus of 3 is not only pathetic but an oxymoron ! [2] So is she joking ?

Apparently not; such is the belief of any fanatic that they can never be wrong – it’s only the rest of the world who is out-of-step with them. McIntosh’s so-called “consensus” is a vain attempt to elevate 3 opinions to the same stature as Warshak’s consensus article signed by 111 of the worlds leading experts. Significantly, McIntosh’s article wasn’t even ‘peer reviewed.’

‘No contest’, one would have thought, it can’t carry anywhere near the weight of Warshak’s work yet Australian based McIntosh magnanimously gives Warshak’s work a single footnote (almost as if an afterthought) in her solo effort “The care of very young children after their parents separate” ; an article published in 2014 – some considerable time after the original furore. [3]

Look more closely, “Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children”  includes in its title “Part II”  – so there must be a Part I, and there is; it too was written by the trio Pruett, Kelly & McIntosh. However, by the time Pruett and Kelly had got to the end of Part I (also published in April 2014), their will power was beginning to flag. Part I has to be seen as a reasonable and well-reasoned approach to the subject but Part II has forensic signs of unraveling if not decomposition.

They (but one suspects its more a cases of ‘she’), goes on about how best to make decisions, i.e. tests (presumably these hurdles are designed only for fathers), about granting sleepovers:

  • “We suggest that both attachment and parental involvement perspectives point to a common centerpoint upon which decisions about overnights are best grounded: the nature and quality of the parent-child relationship.”

But how can that happen if fathers are presented with a set of hoops to jump through and are de facto ostracised by her formulaic framework ?

Apply now for your “Licence to Parent”

Let loose on society McIntosh & Co would bring us all closer to the Big Brother state where the monitoring and licensing (of state approved parents) to parent the child allocated to them, would be normalised.

Her (their) ‘underpinning assumptions’ include the prospect that all children are facing stress, parental substance abuse, violence, and unfit parents. Yes, we are all too well aware of ‘deranged’ or incompetent parents but that is no reason to treat all the remaining 99.9% of parents as if they were idiots or have a history of psychiatric problems (re Para 3.3). There is and always has been on-going therapeutic support for such parents and to conflate normal, balanced parents with these rare cases which, yes, “are of critical importance” is a fundamental mistake of the first order.

Banging on about violence, high conflict etc, etc is popular in ‘radical feminist’ circles but look at the annual numbers – only about 4% of women annually experience any form of domestic abuse and the majority of that figure is confined to a). unmarried couples, b).  single women, and c).  women who are unemployed or in the lowest social economic category, i.e. most usually single. McIntosh ought to get out a little more often ; in all countries of the Western World inter-personal violence is, if anything, falling not increasing (Ref. Prof Pinker, Harvard).

Her world view resembles Reagan-omics where the benefits she will provide will filter down to us the ‘plebs’ and bovine-like we will not only be grateful but respond in unison as if we were one well-oiled machine.

Thus she ignores that we are all sentient beings and blithely ploughs on building for us a “framework” for “individual infant needs and parents’ circumstances.” Someone should point out to her that you don’t even get that level of treatment in a divorce where the parties can speak for themselves. In fact, the concept of each case treated on its merits was last put forward by the Archbishop of Canterbury in ‘Putting Asunder’, 1964, and which was promptly rubbished as impractical by the legal profession in “The Field of Choice” (1966). [4] Protecting both young and older child from harm is what we all want but its something we still can’t do even in the more extreme examples that hit the headlines and what McIntosh proposes is not only repugnant but is tinkering at the edges. She is fiddling while Rome burns.

We all want children to be able to access the full range of complementary emotional, family, cognitive, social and economic resources each parent can offer, i.e. normative relationships, but this is no way to set about achieving such a goal.

Found wanting

When it comes to weighing the work of Messrs McIntosh, Pruett and Kelly in the scales of importance one would have thought, ‘No contest’, when compared to that of the weight of Warshak’s or, say, Nielsen’s solo effort of Aug 2014 (“The care of very young children after their parents separate”), but whereas McIntosh grudgingly gives Warshak’s work a single footnote (albeit as if an afterthought), she gives none to Nielsen. [5] So who is she scared of most ?

More unfortunately still, McIntosh’s clouded thinking continues to do damage. McIntosh has previously and elsewhere been described as a wicked witch (see “Ozz – the ‘Wicked Witch’ Flies North”, Dec 2011. So it’s a pity that these other two, and erstwhile respectable, researchers should have been dragged so dangerously close to falling into that same category. They are, or were – like Terrie Moffitt – on the side of the Angels of Enlightened Thinking but they will have to paddle frantically to distance themselves categorically from this supposed “agreed upon” formula which it is claimed is being widely accepted in the field.

With some lawyers using this new ‘checklist’ of hers to justify limiting a father’s overnight time [sleepovers] with his children if aged between 0 – 36 months, the formula has to be solemnly countered.

Peter_AndreModern “Doting Dads” (as the Daily Mail describes them), like Australian rock star Peter Andre (left), must be thanking their lucky stars he no longer lives in Queensland, or anywhere near Australia. [6]

The more McIntosh and her two authors ignore the Tsunami of evidence against her position the more she will be targeted by her peers and critiqued by those outside academic circles. That said, there are already signs that a rift may be occurring and the desired distancing is taking place; the ‘Gang of 3’ may soon be reduced to a ‘Gang of 1.’ And the more we contrast the extent to which fathers like David Beckham, Bob Geldof and Peter Andre will go to ensure their children’s happiness the more outmoded McIntosh looks and the more washed-up is her career.

Intellectually we may sneer at the value and legacy of Jungle Drums but in our own hi-tech world the grapevine and tweeter-sphere are simply alternative analogies for communications, news or near-news, which everyone gets to hear about eventually. Often it is speculative but sometimes it is inspired by previous behaviour and reactions.

Core samples

The more one drills down into the nuanced world of academia the more one realises that all is not calmness and light behind the façade of dreaming spires. The core samples reveal intrigue at every level worthy of a John Le Carre or Graham Green novel, and certainly comparable with Trinity College and the Kim Philby coterie, as the old zeitgeist is usurped by the new.

In June 2014 it was suggested that McIntosh might develop a calculated ‘redemption’ ploy so that she could be re-assimilated (politburo style). Pruett and Kelly were naively key to that  ‘redemption’ ploy and it was predicted that both might lose their perspective if they continued to be associated with McIntosh in the hope of weaning her away from wrecking her own careers and theirs in the process (see ‘Custody chances – how it used to be’

Well-placed Jungle Drums have it that in an effort to ‘save face’ the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), “arranged” for an invitation to be extended to all 3 of them (i.e. Joan Kelly, Marsha Pruett and McIntosh), to write the article. School-yard politics then took over. On the grapevine it is rumoured that Robert Emery, a ‘close friend’ of McIntosh and a leading light at the AFCC defended her and threw his weight against Warshak and his 100 plus co-sponsored paper ( including Pamela Ludolph and Linda Nielsen who analytically dissected McIntosh’s “study”).

Emery, having given such fulsome support to McIntosh, sponsored her for the “researcher of the year “award, was then somewhat aghast at the backlash he had unleashed from fellow academics against McIntosh who saw her work (to put it bluntly) as shoddy. Pamela Ludolph for one, was fearless in her condemnatory article that appeared in the Family Court Review (FCR),  heavily criticising McIntosh’s biased views on ‘attachment,’ as indeed was Linda Nielsen in her ‘woozle’ dissection.

What is also truly shocking is that the principle of the First Amendment which permits freedom of speech is being denied by McIntosh with threats of court libel actions. Is her work that precious to her and that fragile ? Though the ‘First Amendment’ is an American construct its’ equal can be found in all English-speaking countries – and thankfully in the EU too.

It goes along with the basic freedom of lawful assembly, the free exercise of religion, the petitioning of government and a free press – Oh no, we now have to cancel the last one; McIntosh does not like, apparently, a free press where different views can be aired (think of Bettina Arndt who has had McIntosh’s legal Rottweilers snarling at the door).

In the end Salem & Shienvold were prevailed upon to calm the gale force seas in a paper entitled “Closing the Gap Without Getting to Yes: Staying With the Shared Parenting Debate.” However, in trying to close the schism they had to concede that:

  • “. . . . .  In addition to the challenges related to the use of social science data by practitioners, policy makers, and advocates, some of whom use research findings selectively to support their position for any number of reasons, the research literature itself is, at times, viewed as suspect.”

And, as anyone with even the faintest knowledge of the fiasco might comment, who but McIntosh could have this criticism of ‘using research findings selectively’ levelled against them ?

We have to accept that there is a part of us that enjoys experiencing being outraged and that we duly responded with outrage. We are now in a tweeter-world that today ‘over-reacts’ at the slightest of provocations – and our over-reaction is a tool used by others against us. Some people know precisely how to induce a reaction in us and do so intentionally.

Similarly our propensity for over-reaction is used to close down free speech so that whenever anyone comes anywhere close to stating a principled position, e.g. rape anonymity, there is a huge over-reaction to the effect that; “You’re excusing their behaviour”, or, “You’re trying to blame the victim” and so it derails logic and terminates any rational debate. Over-reaction has thus become a tool, and a machine for editing thoughts. Over-reaction has also become “predictable” and because it is so predictable (and it is so effective), it is destructive to dialogue and annihilates positive human thought.

When, on the few occasions the debate is in the written form, where such intimidation does not work so well, outrage has to manifest itself through legal proceedings. And then, when one learns that a Social Scientist is profiting from alleged ‘research’ by opening a business promoting her stance, one can see why in purely commercial terms she, i.e. McIntosh, would want to shut down any opposition that might jeopardise the cash flow. The business McIntosh is engaged in is in the marketing of her ‘checklists’ which claims to determine which kids are “at risk” in developing problems after their parents separate. Some might see this as no better than snake oil or snake charming but that is immaterial – we are all allowed to make a living and that goes for journalists who might write unfavourable articles about snake oil salesmen and snake charmers. What is not permissible, and is unconscionable, is to be blackmailed into silence by legal action.

If the AFCC leadership is wise it will ask Marsha Pruett and Joan Kelly to babysit McIntosh and perhaps prevail upon her to move towards a more balanced public position on ‘baby overnighting’ – the source of all the current controversy.

However, that is a big ask – not of McIntosh but of Pruett and Kelly.

We’ve all seen far too clearly how, after the joint paper / article was published McIntosh continued to tout her same position once she was no longer tethered to the reality that Pruett and Kelly brought to the party.

In this regard Pruett and Kelly have been ill-used by McIntosh (and/or duped by Bob Emery), because it now allows her to use their names to back her own narrow views.  Meanwhile. only the Australian Psychological Society (APS) continues to print McIntosh writings in their magazine (again,  it was not peer-reviewed), which is a puzzle given that McIntosh has so clearly violated the Society’s ethical standards. And for all outwards appearances the Australian Infant Mental Health Association (AIMHA), has never taken her material off their website. So are her linkages and sphere of influence now reduced to only Australian-based institutes ?

One can imagine that working with such a truculent and recalcitrant apprentice is stress-inducing and it would not surprise observers if Kelly or Pruett sought some form of escape or taking a politically opportune much-needed vacation.

Learning more about the nitty-gritty and speculating upon how best to save a reputation both Pruett and Kelly need to distance themselves from their past mistakes (or perhaps errors of judgment would be a kinder interpretation).

In matters of truth and of principles any veering towards compromise is eternally fatal. In trying to compromise with McIntosh (a mistake of the first water), Pruett and Kelly have undercut what both of them have espoused for years in regard to overnighting [i.e. sleepovers] for infants. The best possible course of action for Pruett and Kelly is for them to write an entirely new article where they can state their true views clearly and where they can refute McIntosh’s “checklist” for overnighting.

Only this will serve to exonerate them and forever erase their witch’s hats. Friends and colleagues must urge this course upon Pruett and Kelly without delay.



[1] The fact that it’s a two-part article might suggest that the AFCC leadership pleaded with them to get the AFCC out of hot water by writing in the FCR and probably that’s why it was never peer-reviewed.

[2] A consensus is defined as a ‘majority of opinion’, or a generally held and widespread view.

[3] See “The care of very young children after their parents separate”, Aug 2014, McIntosh. J.

[4] See the Law Commission’s paper “The Field of Choice”

[5] See “The care of very young children after their parents separate”, 2014, McIntosh. J.

[6] See  Feb 2014. (Peter Andre, b. 1973)


  1. Part 1: Parental separation and overnight care of young children, Part I: Consensus through Theoretical and Empirical Integration” by Jennifer E. McIntosh, Marsha Kline Pruett and Joan B. Kelly, April 2014,
  2. Part 2: “Parental separation and overnight care of young children, Part II: Putting Theory into Practice”
  3. “The care of very young children after their parents separate”, Aug 2014, McIntosh. J. .

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