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Participants discussed recent research that contributes to understanding how families affect children; methods of researching families; and opportunities to improve family research. This document summarizes the workshop. Released: July 25, Released: June 25, Qualitative data can provide an essential complement to quantitative data but can be limited in estimating large-scale patterns. Assessment of physiological, biological, and epigenetic processes is increasingly being integrated into family research, but these multidisciplinary and multimethod studies often require greater emphasis on team building and long-term approaches.

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A strong interest in better understanding how scientific research on the family can be used to improve the health and well-being of children has spawned a large and growing body of data from various disciplines. The new science of family research cuts across many disciplines: demography, anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, education, genetics, neuroscience, and developmental biology. Researchers from these fields use case studies, ethnographies, longitudinal studies, diary and time use records, assessments, administrative records, biological and genetic assessments, and many other methodologies.

The results are theories and hypotheses that reflect many different disciplinary perspectives. Yoshikawa H. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.

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All Rights Reserved. Twitter Facebook Email. This Issue. Views Citations 0. Following the conclusion of the workshop, the participants take a minimum 5—day vacation to assist in consolidating the gains they achieved during the workshop before returning home. The team leaders are available to take calls from the parent or child regarding any questions or to receive assistance in applying what they have learned.

Usually, prior to beginning the workshop, one or more local professionals are designated to provide aftercare and support to the family as needed. For information about participating in Family Bridges or other programs for families with alienated children, email Dr. He will direct interested parties to professionals who offer various interventions. The workshops are offered at various locations, usually at a vacation resort facility that allows the family plenty of opportunities for recreation and enjoyable interactions. In other cases the family travels to another city and combines the program with a brief vacation at the conclusion of the workshop.

Two independent practitioners co-lead the workshop on an ad hoc basis at a suitable location. Family Bridges is an educational service the co-leaders provide. Each workshop is arranged privately for the family and is scheduled on an individual basis to coordinate with the availability of workshop leaders and the needs of the family.

The workshop is usually scheduled close to the date on which a court issues orders regarding the children's living arrangements. In some cases the court will order that a rejected parent participate with the children in a Family Bridges workshop. Divorce decrees and court orders determine who has the authority to make educational and health care decisions for children.

If a parent has the sole authority to make such decisions, and does not need to consult with or obtain the approval of the other parent, a parent can choose to enroll a child in Family Bridges just as the parent with such authority can enroll a child in different types of educational experiences, tutoring, counseling, medical treatment, etc. In some particularly volatile situations, where concerns are raised about one parent interfering with the custodial parent's right to enroll the child in Family Bridges, such as by unlawfully retaining a child, it may help for the court to take judicial recognition of a parent's exploration of, or intent to have the child participate in, Family Bridges.

Workshop leaders do not accept referrals of parents who have been ordered to participate against their will. Parents may decide to enroll a child in the program without first obtaining a minor child's consent just as children are enrolled in special schools, programs, and mental health treatment , but the parent must seek assistance voluntarily. Almost every workshop participant comes to the program with a history of failed attempts at counseling.

Instead the workshop provides an educational experience based on scientifically established concepts and procedures. Leaders of the Family Bridges workshop have been trained to conduct the workshop and those without such training cannot label their interventions as Family Bridges. Professionals who conduct the Family Bridges workshop join together on an ad hoc basis for each workshop, but they are not affiliated with each other in their independent practices.

To date Family Bridges workshop are offered to one family at a time.

This allows the workshop leaders to tailor the program to the individual needs and circumstances of the family. Family Bridges workshop leaders are open to exploring the option of conducting a multi-family workshop if the opportunity presents itself and appears to be potentially beneficial to all participants. Usually all siblings will benefit from participation in the workshop.

Parents will need to make arrangements for the care of children who are too young to benefit from all phases of the program. Family Bridges is a fee-for-service program paid for by the parent who participates in the workshop. Workshop leaders do not accept cases in which the court orders a non-participating parent to pay the workshop leaders directly for the workshop provided to the other parent and children. In the future perhaps scholarships will be available for families that cannot afford the program, but these are not currently available.

Adolescent & Family Development Lab

In cases involving returning abducted children, other agencies may provide funding to assist families with the reunification process. Family Bridges workshop leaders have no authority to determine how much contact children have with each of their parents. Many of the families with children under 18 who participate in a Family Bridges workshop are subject to court orders regarding parent-child access and contact.

In some of these cases the children and their parents need help to adjust to the changes brought about by the court orders. Family Bridges is one intervention that provides such help and support for reunification between children and a parent whom they have rejected in the past. Although Family Bridges workshop leaders work with children whom the court has separated from a parent, it is the court, not the workshop leaders, who make this determination. To the contrary, rather than isolate children, all siblings and their parent participate together in the workshop.

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Adult children who attend the Family Bridges workshop choose to participate. Some children younger than 18 years old choose to participate. In some cases the court takes judicial notice that the parent intends to enroll the children in the workshop, and in other cases the Court Orders explicitly require the parent and children to participate in the workshop. The term deprogramming was originally used in reference to work with cult victims and came to evoke images of abducting, forcibly restraining, and isolating cult members while wearing them down with lectures in a process that could be described as a form of brainwashing.

Adolescent & Family Development Lab | Psychological and Brain Sciences | UMass Amherst

None of this occurs with Family Bridges. Most children whose behavior is inappropriate do not choose to enroll in special schools, special programs, and mental health treatment. Caring adults make the decision for them. Similarly, alienated children do not generally regard their alienated behavior as something that they need to change. Adults e. Workshop leaders do not restrain children in any manner, and the leaders make it clear to the children that this is not the role of the workshop leader. As opposed to brainwashing, which fosters the suspension of critical thinking and inculcates distortions of reality, the workshop teaches children to think critically and to correct distorted perceptions.

Children receive information commonly presented in Psychology and Sociology classes and it is left to the participants to decide if and how they want to apply what they have learned.

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Many children arrive at the workshop anxious, angry, and confused. Most have felt empowered to dictate the nature of their relationships with their parents and are stunned that the court has overturned the status quo. By the end of the first day, the participants are usually relaxed and in an upbeat mood. They are relieved that the process is easier than anticipated and the parents often are overjoyed at having contact and regaining some semblance of a relationship with a once lost child.

Children usually are relieved when they learn that they can restore a relationship with the rejected parent without forgoing their relationship with the other parent. They reveal that they have all along preferred to keep both parents in their lives. Also, they are relieved when they can save face by not having to rehash all the bad moments and painful scenes in order to reconcile.


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Other than the initial requirement to participate in the program, children do not feel and are not coerced. Children are given a great deal of latitude in regulating the pace of the program, the emotional intensity of the discussions, and the frequency and duration of breaks.