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What is the number one predictor for the poor wellbeing of children? According to Dr. Patricia Papernow, the answer is the lack of contention in the home. “[It] is not divorce,” she said at our recent Social Work Conference. “It’s conflict, it’s not family structure, it’s family process.” When children are living in an environment where there is conflict between the parents they suffer from a lower attention span, a weakened immune system, and poor academic performance. The factor behind these symptoms is sleep. Dr. Papernow says: “When adults are tense, kids don’t sleep as well and that makes all the rest of that.” She suggested: “You have a kid who’s not sleeping well, do check for tension. Children with low-conflict divorced parents are doing significantly better than kids with high-conflict, never-divorced parents. This is true for adults too. Kids can manage the differences if the adults manage them well.”
The conference, held in October of 2016, was an opportunity for professionals and community members to better understand the challenges faced by stepfamilies, treatments for and research on stepfamilies and how it can be used to increase their quality of life, and create an awareness of stepfamily related issues within the community. Dr. Papernow is “an internationally recognized expert on stepfamilies. She integrates her deep understanding of the research with four decades of clinical practice and a wide variety of modalities and theoretical modes (Internal Family Systems, couple and family therapy, trauma, attachment, Gestalt, interpersonal neurobiology). She has written two of the classic books in the field as well as numerous articles, book chapters, and guest blogs. She is known as a highly engaging teacher, an excellent speaker, and attuned, caring, clinical supervisor. Dr. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, Ma, and Director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education.
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