Brief Parent Education Programs in the Family Courts: A Good Faith Human Experiment but Does it Work?
Dana E. Prescott

In response to the frequency and intensity of child custody litigation, family courts began to mandate brief parent education programs [BPEPs] beginning in the 1980s. Among various objectives, BPEPs were intended to improve parental cooperation and reduce iterations of litigation. For the most part, however, courts have constituted a “black box” for evidence-informed policy design and unilaterally imposed interventions, like parental capacity evaluations or parent education, without research methodologies specific to the construct of parental conflict or the influence of the court as host environment. Interventions which rely upon folk-wisdom, anecdotal evidence, or policy convenience may not only fail to reduce child custody conflict but may be insensitive to differences attributable to culture, race, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or the presence of interpersonal violence. Using BPEPs as a conceptual template, and integrating literature and research from social science, the author explores interpersonal violence and forgiveness theories as examples of constructs which may more precisely shape future research, as well as intervention design and assessment in family courts.

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