Managing Contact Difficulties: A Child-Centred Approach



List of key persons contacted for the expert consultations

We contacted universities in Canada that offer graduate programs in social work or psychology to locate research occurring in such sites. We requested that these faculties identify staff members who were teaching or conducting research in the area of children and divorce. Subsequently, we contacted all of the identified staff to determine if their teaching and/or research interests were related to the issue of the concept often referred to as parental alienation. We purposely did not define the concept in our communications to limit the potential for bias.

At our request, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council searched their records and provided us with a list of all research projects in the area of divorce that they had provided financial support to since 1995. The principal investigators of those projects were also contacted in the manner described above.

FOCUS is a project of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) that promotes effective practice in child and adolescent mental health. They moderate an electronic discussion group of approximately 2900 members in 35 countries. The membership was canvassed in a similar manner.

We utilized our knowledge of the more general divorce literature and the results of the search described above to identify a pool of key informants in jurisdictions with which Canada is frequently compared. Given the short duration of the project and budgetary limitations, a short list of key informants was created. The consultation was multi-disciplinary and included a range of professionals who work with changing families such as clinicians, researchers, lawyers and judges. In addition to the FOCUS membership (representing 35 countries), we contacted professionals throughout Canada, and in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. By broadening the inquiry beyond Canada, we hoped to learn more about how new family law legislation in several of these countries is influencing the outcome of difficult contact cases.

The primary factor guiding our choices when developing our list of informants was involvement in practice or research in the area of separation. We also included people known to have related conference presentations or publications that needed elaboration in terms of the current enquiry. Every key informant we spoke with was asked to suggest other sources. This was particularly helpful with respect to practitioners and researchers in other jurisdictions. In some instances, key informants provided information (i.e. copies of research papers, journal articles, academic dissertations, etc.) and in other instances we held telephone or in-person meetings.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Annual Meeting was held in June 2002. This meeting provided an important opportunity to hold in-person consultations with additional key informants. It permitted us to expand the list of key informants in a cost effective and efficient manner. The pool of key informants involved in this project is considered representative but not exhaustive.

Questions for the key informant interviews are presented in Appendix C. Extensive notes were taken during the in-person meetings and telephone meetings. A thematic analysis of the notes was undertaken and is presented in conjunction with the literature review.

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