Creating and Understanding Change for High Parental Conflict

Grant Winner

  • Dr. Sharon Boesl – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dean

  • Honggang Yang – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of high parental conflict that interferes with and confounds the resolution of divorce. High conflict divorces are of particular concern when children are involved because the intense, negative interactions of these parents has been consistently linked with behavior and emotional problems in children. Court systems have begun to offer programs of services to parents aimed at reducing conflict. In the case of high conflict parents, our local judges/general masters have begun to refer parents to NSU's Family Therapy Associates for more intensive treatment. Family therapists at our center have little knowledge about the circumstances that prompt a judge to take this action because when parents are asked why the judge sent them to therapy, they report being confused by and resentful of the judge's action. In this study, my intent is to gather information and better understand the referral process and it's implications in the treatment of high conflict parents. The methodological design of this study has two components. In phase one of this study, I plan to use semi-formal focus groups. The use of focus groups is specifically chosen as a means to construct a questionnaire. The questionnaire will be distributed to family court judges/judicial officers across the state of Florida to inquire about their experiences with high parental conflict cases and what actions they are taking/not taking with regard to addressing parents' negative behavior. Phase two of this study will include distributing the survey and gathering and analyzing data from the survey. The results of this study will become an important component in a larger study where I am designing a treatment manual to guide family therapists in their clinical work with this population.