Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High-Conflict Divorce


It is beyond dispute that ongoing interparental hostility is bad for children. We know, moreover, that children who continue to be exposed to high levels of parental conflict following their parents’ divorces have more problems than children of parents whose fighting diminishes after divorce. Despite a consensus among psychologists about the dangers of ongoing pa-rental conflict following divorce, there has been little explicit recognition by courts or legislatures of the emotional and behavioral effects of such conflict. Nor is there agreement among scholars or policy makers concern-ing the best remedy or remedies, whether psychological or legal, when divorced parents are unable or unwilling to change their damaging behavior.

Caught in the Middle presents the views of two child psychologists about what should be done on behalf of children in cases of ongoing post-divorce conflict. The authors discuss the effects of conflict on child development, how to assess types and degrees of conflict, the creation and implementation of a parenting plan for high-conflict divorces, and an elaborate remedy for one of the most extreme of these situations, parental alienation syndrome. The book’s subject matter merits attention by par-ents and professionals alike, and the book has received good publicity todate. Unfortunately, it does not deserve the broad and eager audience that it may attract. Caught in the Middle relies on poorly documented factual assertions and presents a proposal for dealing with cases of severe conflict that ignores certain crucial realities (including scarce economic resources and the limited availability of first-rate clinicians) that must be considered by policy makers and courts. The book also appears to rest on an insufficiently examined premise about children’s needs, and it some-times evidences a distressing insensitivity to the varied audience to which it purports to address.

Suggested Reading