Shared parenting for under fives criticised by Penelope Leach

The Independent on Sunday celebrates Father’s Day by featuring claims by childcare expert Penelope Leach that “… as a general rule, children aged four and under should not be separated from their mother by having a “sleepover” with the father, when couples have separated.”

This comes from her new book on Family Breakdown, in which she says attempts by separated parents to “share” young children is putting “adult rights” above those of children, and that there is “undisputed” evidence that separating children from their mothers “reduces brain development” and creates a tendency toward “unhealthy attachment issues”.

Families Need Fathers Scotland finds these claims remarkable, given the recent evidence published by Warshak and others about the importance of father involvement with young children after separation. 

“Penelope Leach’s overall message in her new book is that parents should focus on children’s needs after separation, which is one that we agree with” comments Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland.

“Where we part company is in her interpretation of attachment theory to mean that mothers should be the main carers in early years, and we find it amazing that she seems to relegate the separated father to the status of a visitor to his children.”

“This cuts across recent research, such as the major review by Richard Warshak.”

“Shared Parenting doesn’t have to mean a 50:50 split of time, but it does mean that both parents should be involved closely with their children and be involved in making decisions and sharing routine care.”