Children Of Separated Parents Should Not Spend Nights With Dad, Says Parenting Expert Penelope Leach

Girl whispering to man holding book
Girl whispering to man holding book

A parenting expert has caused fury by saying pre-school children whose parents are separated should not be allowed to spend the night with their dad.

Psychologist Penelope Leach said even one night away from their mothers could cause toddlers lasting damage.

And she fanned the flames by accusing couples who have split up and arrange sleepovers of putting their own rights ahead of their children's.

Mrs Leach influenced a generation of mothers in the 1970s with her bestselling book Your Baby & Child: From Birth To Age Five, stressing the importance of establishing a loving bond.

In her new book, Family Breakdown, she argues that society treats access to children as 'a right' rather than focusing on the interests of the child.

She writes: "When people say that it's 'only fair' for a father and mother to share their five-year-old daughter on alternate weeks, they mean it is fair to the adults – who see her as a possession and her presence as their right – not that it is fair to the child."

She believes there is 'undisputed' evidence that separating children from their mothers 'reduces brain development' and creates a tendency toward 'unhealthy attachment issues'.

Fathers' support groups reacted with outrage to the advice.

The New Fathers4Justice direct action group, said the advice 'sounds like absolute poison and potentially terribly damaging to children's development'.

A spokesman added: "Overnight stays with fathers from as early an age as possible are crucial if children are to form strong attachments with both parents."

Ian Maxwell, of Families Need Fathers, said her advice went against 'common sense' and that 'the bond between fathers and children is just as important'.

What do you think?