YCIDS was developed by Professor Jennifer McIntosh over several years, through extensive piloting in her clinical work. In 2011-2012, a random allocation pilot study was conducted at CatholicCare Sydney Mediation service, across 5 sites. This pilot project compared two forms of family law mediation for separated parents whose eldest child was under five years at the time of mediation. Both treatment conditions aimed to assist parents of very young children to better understand and manage complex developmental and relationship challenges within their separation/divorce process. One intervention was mediation as usual with the addition of general developmental reading (MR group), and the second was mediation as usual with the addition of an in-person, tailored presentation of the YCIDS materials to both parents, by a Child Consultant (YCIDS group).
Data sources were threefold:
- Consenting parents completed a pre-intervention questionnaire and a follow-up online survey 3 months after the mediation intervention. There were 23 YCID parents with 10 matched parent pairs and 23 MR parents with 9 matched parent pairs. 88% had previously lived together. There were no significant demographic differences between the groups. The main variables were:
- The child’s behavioural adjustment
- Parent’s coping and perceived sensitivity
- Parent cooperation and acrimony
- Use of legal action following mediation
- The time spent with the child by each parent
- Satisfaction with the parenting plan
- Perceived fit of the arrangements to the needs of the child
- Parent’s knowledge about how to adapt the plan in the future to fit their child
Pilot findings from parents’ follow up interviews were encouraging. There was no difference in parenting time agreed to between the groups. There were no variables on which the MR parents reported greater gains than the YCIDS parents. One YCIDS family had gone onto court from mediation, in contrast to 6 MR families.
At follow-up, three months after the mediation process had concluded, YCIDS mothers were significantly more likely than MR mothers to report:
- Their plan was a good way for their young child(ren) to be living, was practical and kept the daily stress low for their child(ren), and their child(ren) felt safe & secure living this way.
- Parents know how to tell if the arrangements are working for their child(ren).
At follow-up, three months after the mediation process had concluded, YCIDS fathers were more likely than MR fathers to report:
- They as parents cooperated and were making the plan work well for their child(ren), and they know how to tell if the arrangements are working for their child(ren).
This pilot study had the key strength of random allocation to treatment groups, but the key limitation of small sample sizes. These early findings certainly warrant replication, so the research continues. Further sampling is underway in an independent study. The data of these studies will be published in due course.
Findings from practitioners indicated promise for this intervention, but also revealed the significant demands on the practitioner and on the mediation process of coordinating with a Child Consultant to attend a session, quickly adapt the YCIDS materials to the case without having met the parents prior, and still complete the YCIDS process within 90 minutes. Hence, the development of a standardized, easily accessible online format was undertaken, narrated by Professor Jennifer McIntosh. When parents have both completed the program prior to a dispute resolution process, practitioners can then build further on this shared exposure to developmental information.