Penelope Leach. 70’s parenting guru…

… and that should say it all.  But if it doesn’t, then this article in the Independent should provide further proof of her alleged guruism, where she argues that “under-fives are damaged by ‘sleepovers’ with their separated fathers”. Outrageous beyond belief.

But let’s be sensible for a moment and remove the outrage. And let’s take out the fact that psychology is still quite far removed from an exact science, especially when it comes to a toddler who is still unable to communicate properly. As far as I’m aware it is not yet possible to monitor the brain in order to gauge the outcome of events which occur every second of our lives. Observations can be made over time and a general conclusion reached but an infinite number of subtle factors affect the observed, so when it comes to a very young child, conclusion to these observations is probably equivalent to astrology – except, of course, in extreme cases, or where the child has been extensively influenced by one parent against the other. An adult can describe exact feelings of distress whereas a child between 1 and 5 can not.

So what does Leach propose in a situation where a mother of a young child moves in with a new bloke almost immediately after separation? Is this not damaging? And she (the mother) is obsessed with creating a new ‘family unit’, and the new ‘family unit’ becomes openly hostile towards the father? Leach should maybe spend some time researching the psychology behind the ‘family unit’ syndrome since this can be a precursor to parental alienation, and by now every man and his dog knows how utterly damaging for children this is.

According to Leach, shared parenting creates a tendency toward “unhealthy attachment issues”. So does she suggest that it is better for the child to be more attached to the new blokes and new husbands? My unprofessional guess is that surely, the unhealthy attachment issues would more likely be caused by being with one parent too much and not bonding with the other properly.

Moving onto Leach’s suggestion on brain development, I am not qualified to comment on this but my daughter is a good example of shared parenting. At school she is doing better than average and besides the various sports only we do together, she has learned another language and its script, and two musical instruments from being partially in my care, thanks to the joint residence order which was – thankfully – imposed when she was 3 as a result of a failed Leave to Remove application.  Had the shared residence order had not been imposed, my daughter would have missed out on the whole culture, family and language from her paternal side which she now loves, and had this happened, how good would it have been for my daughter’s development according to Leach? After all, no sleepovers would’ve taken place, and only god knows how many schools, cities and countries my daughter would’ve changed by now.  Leach’s energy might be better spent by explaining long term effects of things like this than sweeping dads away in one fell swoop.

But Leach’s gem which shines above all of her other nonsense is, when speaking in defense of her position, she announced that “being a father is not a reward for good behaviour”. I rest my case.


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