Thursday, August 22, 2019
When I realized that Craig Childress and his life coach sidekick Dorcy Pruter had had a paper accepted for presentation at the 2019 convention of the American Psychological Association, I was alarmed. As I have said in the courtroom and in published articles as well as here on this blog, I consider Childress’s views on Parental Alienation (PA), its identification and treatment, to be implausible, lacking in an evidence basis, and potentially harmful to children and families. In other words, I would categorize the High Road treatment that Childress recommends as an alternative psychotherapy, foreign in its principles and methods to mainstream psychology. Childress, of course, says it is not a therapy at all but “psychoeducation”—a claim that does not actually bring this treatment any further into the mainstream.
Yes, I was alarmed by the idea that Childress’s views were going to be presented in a way that implied APA approval. But now that I have seen the paper presented at the conference (see , I am also flabbergasted. The central part of the paper is basically a series of claims about the High Road treatment of a teenager who avoided contact with one of his parents, and in that it was no different than what Childress has previously stated; that was not the flabbergasting part. What amazed and frightened me was that the High Road narrative was embedded in one of the wilder psychological ideas of the 1970s, an idea that would have passed quickly from the scene had not its originator had sufficient personal funds to maintain for many years a journal promulgating his beliefs. The originator was Lloyd DeMause, the idea was what he called “psychohistory”, and the journal was the Journal of Psychohistory.
I first encountered DeMause at a history conference in 1974. I attended this small local conference because I was given to understand that presenters would discuss associations between child rearing and historical events. To my surprise, the first paper I heard attempted to trace personality disorders to the unborn baby’s experience of the tightness of the womb. I pointed out during the discussion period that there is variation in that “tightness” and it would be possible to examine the empirical support for the hypothesis. This proposal was far from welcome, and I caught on to the fact that the psychohistory group thought that theory was far more important than evidence.
My next DeMause (it’s pronounced Dee Moss, not like the Mickey kind) experience came about years later as I tried to trace the beginnings of some alternative psychotherapies, especially the ones that resemble Scientology in their reliance on what they believe to be the experiences that occur before or during birth and serve to shape personality at an unconscious level (i.e., it makes you do things but you don’t know it). DeMause, a political scientist who became a lay psychoanalyst, wrote in loving (perhaps even salivating) detail about the history of child abuse and claimed that human history has been shaped by children’s trauma (you can see some of this at psychohistory.com). DeMause’s fascination with trauma and the unconscious made him a favorite with the primal therapy group and later with the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH), whose members believed that unborn babies were in telepathic communication with their mothers and that all babies remember the details of their births. William Emerson, a member of APPPAH, recommended massaging babies’ heads roughly in imitation of the birth experience and allowing them to cry uncomforted for purposes of catharsis. This way of thinking dates back at least to Freud’s friend Georg Groddeck, and it temporarily rose to prominence again when Lawrence Durrell engineered a translation into English of Groddeck’s Book of the It in the late 1940s. It was further cultivated during the irrationalism and anti-rationalism of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Incidentally, I presented about DeMause at EPA several years ago, in the history of psychology section, and I don’t think anyone present had ever heard of him before (not even sure they listened at the time)—so I would suppose that Childress’s APA audience did not know any of the background. And indeed I wonder whether Childress knew who he was referring to, or whether he just chose for a sort of camouflage an obscure author who talked about trauma a lot. I am not sure which is worse, whether DeMause was just pulled DeMause from the ether as an impressive-sounding name, or whether Childress knew full well what DeMause’s beliefs were and has subscribed to them. It may be that an obscure book by Robert Grille was Childress’s introduction to DeMause.
In creating the wraparound “theoretical” piece in which his claims about High Road were embedded, Childress oddly included a story about the World War I Christmas truce in which German and allied soldiers stopped shooting at each other. He spoke of the way the soldiers’ animosity was disarmed and implied that similar mechanisms could reduce the animosity the teenager in his case felt toward his parent. Unfortunately, Childress seems to have missed the point that the soldiers did not feel personal animosity, but were forced by those in power to fight against people with whom they actually had much in common— hardly a good example of the use of change agents outside psychotherapy to produce alterations in attitudes. The reference to the truce seems to have come from a TED talk by Robert Sapolsky, so perhaps this example was no better thought through than the DeMause reference.
In any case, none of the flabbergasting material, and none of what Childress presented as support for his High Road claims, offered any convincing supporting evidence. I do wish I could know what APA Division 24 (theoretical and philosophical psychology) now thinks of the decision to accept this presentation—but perhaps they never heard of DeMause themselves. Or, it may be that they are pleased with this little visit to the counter-Enlightenment and wish APA would drop all this concern about evidence-based treatment.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has posted an interesting report at discussing child custody decisions in the presence of domestic violence. The report notes that “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), discredited by the scientific community, is not admissible evidence and any reference should be stricken under the standards established in Daubert and Frye”, (“Daubert” refers to standards for acceptable scientific evidence, “Frye” to standards based on whether most members of a profession support an idea.)
In spite of this recommendation from NCJFCJ—echoed by many other sources—family courts daily admit evidence about parental alienation (PA) and even make decisions based on that evidence. Parents whose children avoid contact with or who reject the other parent are increasingly accused of creating PA by manipulating and exploiting their children. People who are accused of PA risk losing custody of and even contact with their children even when there is no evidence that they have caused the children’s attitudes. Worse, advocates of PA argue that most children who reject a parent are emotionally disturbed, that the emotional disturbance was caused by the preferred parent, and thus that the preferred parent is an abuser and must be removed from the child’s life, in the child’s best interests. For parents who are teachers, psychologists, or physicians, a court’s acceptance of this argument can have a devastating effect on their professional lives in addition to the tragic effects on family relationships.
Fighting allegations of PA can be ruinously expensive. A lawyer I talked to yesterday estimated possible costs to one parent at $100,000 to $150,000 over several years. As a result, it is common for the accused parent to run out of money and no longer to be able to afford legal representation. (This situation may allow for legal aid in Canada and the United Kingdom, but to the best of my knowledge this is not the case in the United States.) Thus, although we all know that “the person who has himself for a lawyer has a fool for a client”, many people sooner or later find that they have to represent themselves in family court—or simply give up their attempts to have contact with their children.
NCJFCJ has prepared a document called “10 Things to Know About Family Court” (https://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/defaut/files/NCJFCJ_10ThingsKnowFamilyCourt_Final.pdf). This document describes family courts’ officers and their functions and defines and discusses some important terms that should be kept in mind if you have to represent yourself when fighting PA allegations.
Here are some terms and concepts that are especially important to parents accused of PA:
1. 1. In discussing presumptions made by courts, the NCJFCJ document refers particularly to the role of child abuse in custody decisions. They say “many states …have a presumption forbidding a court from awarding custody to a parent who has abused the child or the other parent, if the abuse is properly proven, unless the court finds reasons that would not be in the child’s best interests.” This item is highly relevant to the claims made by PA advocates that PA can be determined simply on the basis of a child’s attitude and behavior, and that PA is by definition a type of abuse. Although neither of these claims is generally accepted by psychologists, there is nothing to stop a family court from basing decisions on them unless strong arguments to the contrary are presented – or even then.
2. 2.The NCJFCJ document points to the role of the “burden of proof” in family courts. People who ask for unusual decisions or who make unusual claims must present more convincing evidence to support what they say than those who have more typical claims or requests. Because PA concepts and their associated treatments are poorly substantiated by empirical research , related claims and requests should bear a heavy burden of proof and should be required to address either the Daubert or the Frye standards mentioned above, depending on what a state’s laws determine. Requests for ordinary, normal parenting plans and schedules should not require much proof, nor should refutation of PA claims require much proof to be offered. When PA claims are made, claimants should be asked to provide published evidence of research support for the claims. If an evaluator has stated that PA is present, the evaluator should be asked to show how his or her methods met the guidelines of the American Psychological Association given at https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-custody. A very important point about these guidelines is that a psychologist making a custody recommendation should have interviewed all family members as well as looking for supportive evidence from teachers, neighbors, etc. PA recommendations are often made on the basis of an interview with one parent and are based on the belief that a child’s avoidance of the nonpreferred parent is caused by the machinations of the preferred parent.
3. The NCJFCJ document discusses settlement out of court and points to problems of reaching agreement when one parent is threatening or has been involved in domestic violence. Allegations of PA by the nonpreferred parent may arise following complaints about child abuse or domestic violence, so this issue may be an important one. In many ways court orders may work better for parents who have been accused of PA, but there are also downsides to court involvement that may lead to orders of complete custody change.
If you are fighting allegations of PA and must represent yourself, the NCJFCJ document can be helpful-- but it is not the same as having experienced counsel.
Hello folks-- Blogspot has changed its method of handling comments and I have just figured out how they are doing it. If you posted a comment in the past months, I apologize for not seeing it! Please try doing it again and I will try to stay on top of this. Problem is, they used to send me an email reminder when there was a comment, now they don't. So sorry!
Discussion of current events shows that there is still much confusion about the relationship between the U.S. Magnitsky Act of 2012 and Russian prohibition of adoption of Russian children to the U.S. It’s commonly said that the strictures on adoption were a “tit for tat” response to the Magnitsky Act, and some private discussions with Russians have been claimed to be about the adoption prohibition when in fact they were apparently about something else entirely.
In fact, in 2012, the Russian children’s ombudsman at that time, Pavel Astakhov, was already seriously concerned about mistreatment and even murder of Russian children adopted to the U.S. He attempted to visit the “Ranch for Kids” in Montana, a facility that had received a number of Russian adoptees who were placed there by their adoptive families. But he could not get in and was told that the children had gone away for the day. That and other experiences moved Astakhov to require that adopted Russian children should remain Russian citizens and should be in contact with Russian consuls while in the U.S. Eventually, the practical difficulties with this idea and resistance to it led to a blanket prohibition of adoption of Russian children outside Russia (and not just to the United States).
The concerns about Ranch for Kids expressed by Astakhov and others appeared for a long time to have been ignored by the Montana authorities. However, as of July 1, 2019, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services took over regulation of facilities like Ranch for Kids. As of July 23, Ranch for Kids was closed down with its license suspended(https://flatheadbeacon.com/2019/07/23/state-removes-27-children-ranch-kids-amid-allegations-abuse/; my thanks to my colleague Linda Rosa for this reference). The reasons for the license suspension were described as “egregious abuse”. Ranch for Kids staff were said to have hit, kicked, body-slammed, and spat on children. Other concerning actions, according to this report, were using inappropriate harsh discipline like requiring 15-20 mile walks in harsh conditions with improper or no shoes; withholding food; prolonged isolation of children; shooting a nail gun at a child; and failure to give needed medical attention or deal properly with medications. Runaways were not consistently reported to law enforcement, even in harsh winter weather.
Why would Ranch for Kids staff mistreat children in these ways, especially after attention had been drawn to their methods after Astakhov’s abortive visit? It is easy to assume that this situation resulted simply from the kind of people staff members were, and it may well be true that an isolated facility like this one may not draw staff from an ideal pool of people who ought to be working with at-risk children. However, to conclude that adult personality characteristics alone drove the child maltreatment is to commit the fundamental attribution error, a mistake of critical thinking that ignores multiple factors that affect any behavior.
A clue to the factors contributing to Ranch for Kids mistreatment is found on the facility’s website, which declares that their program is directed toward children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder (FASD is also mentioned). The RAD reference suggests reasons behind the abusive behavior, with a belief system and a set of misguided principles that encourage mistreatment.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is indeed an “official” diagnosis found in the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This disorder, which must be diagnosable before age 5, is associated with inconsistent and insensitive early care and is shown in withdrawn behavior and failure to seek comfort from familiar people when in distress. Effective treatment for RAD involves working with parents and other caregivers to help them become more sensitive and responsive to a child’s communications.
When organizations like the Ranch for Kids use the term RAD, however, they are not actually referring to the social and emotional problems described in DSM-5. Instead, they are indicating their commitment to an “alternative psychology” in which children’s symptoms of RAD are those which conventionally would be classed as conduct disorders, oppositional and defiant disorder, or obsessive and compulsive disorder. Instead of using those disorders as frameworks for discussing a child’s problems, alternative psychologists use an unconventional, non-evidence-based system in which behaviors like aggressiveness, disobedience, and lack of affection are all attributed to attachment problems and described as symptoms of RAD—which in fact they are not.
When facility staff are committed to the idea that undesirable child moods and behaviors are caused by failures of attachment, they readily accept two other propositions. One is that adopted or foster children are likely to have difficulties with attachment even if their placement occurred before they were 6 months old, the age at which emotional attachment to adults and attachment behaviors really begin. Adopted and foster children thus become the special focus of the facility. Second, staff also tend to accept the belief that “fixing” the child’s problems is a matter of “fixing” attachment, and that this is to be accomplished by methods that establish the absolute authority of adults over the children. Such methods, often known collectively as attachment therapy, are without any evidence basis but have been promulgated and encouraged by people like Foster Cline, Nancy Thomas, and Forrest Lien. The writings of this group propose that attachment problems (and therefore disobedience etc) are cured by the same methods used at Ranch for Kids—difficult physical tasks, limiting food, social isolation, and use of physically and emotionally stressful conditions and punishments (usually referred to as “consequences”).
Mistreatment of children at Ranch for Kids was based on a disturbing unconventional belief system. It would have been possible years ago to examine this fact and to prevent the resulting harm to children, but it has only been with the recent changes in regulation that facilities that claim religious connections or purposes have become open to this kind of examination.
An important question: what is going to happen to the 27 kids removed from the Ranch? The news reports mention placing them elsewhere (but where?) or finding their families and achieving reunification. But what would be the results of reunifying children with families who presumably share the belief system of Ranch for Kids or they would never have placed their children there? Ranch for Kids is appealing the DPHHS decision; is it possible that some or all of the children will end up back where they started?
****More on this subject—my colleague Yulia Massino has sent me the following:
In the article, published (in Russian) in July of 2013, in Kasahstan Today ( https://www.kt.kz/rus/society/detej_na_rancho_v_montane_vospitivali_bivshie_dressirovshtiki_sobak_1153575282.html ), one can see such remark by Pavlov Astachov as regards his investigation of this ranch (the quote, translated by Google):
"P. Astakhov noted that the authorities of the state of Montana checked the ranch (Ranch for kids) at the request of the Russian guardianship authorities twice and twice found violations there. "The fire alarm system is not arranged on the ranch, and the houses there are wooden, there is no fire extinguishing system," said Mr. Astakhov after meeting with the Ombudsman of the Republic of Kazakhstan Askar Shakirov.
According to him, ranch specialists in the past were engaged in a completely different activity.
“We looked at these specialists, for example, the procedure of cultivating attachment. You know, this is more like torture, it can be seen on Youtube. These specialists are licensed. There’s such a woman (I can’t remember her name), in the past she has been training dogs during 20 yerars, and for the last seven years she has been raising difficult children. She comes, teaches how to educate a child, to raise child’s attachment. There are such specialists", - he said."
Yulia has suggested the wonderful term “RAD-ranch” to describe this kind of place!
N.B. Yulia has written a further analysis of the Ranch for Kids on her Russian blog https://yuliamass.livejournal.com/268211.html
This can be translated with Google Translate. Some important additional information Yulia has provided shows the links on the Ranch for Kids website to Nancy Thomas and to Ronald Federici, both proponents of alternative therapies that have abusive components. Thank you, Yulia, for your work on this and for your demonstration of similar beliefs and practices in Russia!
N.B. Yulia has written a further analysis of the Ranch for Kids on her Russian blog https://yuliamass.livejournal.com/268211.html
This can be translated with Google Translate. Some important additional information Yulia has provided shows the links on the Ranch for Kids website to Nancy Thomas and to Ronald Federici, both proponents of alternative therapies that have abusive components. Thank you, Yulia, for your work on this and for your demonstration of similar beliefs and practices in Russia!
Monday, May 13, 2019
Most people know that in legal systems that derive from the British common law, an accused person is held to be innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the accuser and the prosecutor—the accused person should not have to prove that he or she is innocent of wrongdoing, and of course in many cases it would be impossible to prove that something does not exist or did not happen.
It’s less well known that the idea of the burden of proof also applies in scientific investigation. The assumption is always that an effect (like the outcome of a psychological treatment, for instance) does not exist, and anyone who claims that it does must provide strong evidence that it does. The burden of proof that “something happened” is on the people who claim that it did. Others do not have the job of proving that there is no effect of a treatment or other event, and once again, as with the legal system, it can be impossible to show that there is no effect.
Unfortunately, rather than accepting and working on the burden of proof that their treatments are safe and effective, proponents of alternative psychotherapies all too often rely on “proof by assertion”. They repeatedly state that their diagnoses are correct and meaningful, or that their treatment methods are effective, and rely on this repetition to convince not only people in general, but courts in particular. Proof by assertion does not yield evidence that a diagnosis is correct or that a treatment has good outcomes, but as the advertising industry knows, it can be hard to resist repeated claims, especially for anyone who has good reason to want to believe them. If those claims are obfuscated by reference to apparently scientific terms or methods, so much the more likely that they will be convincing.
Proponents of parental alienation (PA) concepts and methods have made rather a specialty of proof by assertion combined with obfuscation. Consider the diagnostic methods that are used, first of all. These range from “scales” created by Craig Childress for the rating of normal parent and child behavior to the use of various more or less standardized tests (some of these, like the MMPI, are quite standardized; others, like the Bricklin, much less so). Tests for any behavioral or emotional disorder must be reliable (that is, give about the same results every time), but they must also be valid. A valid test is one that tests what it is claimed to test, and there must be evidence that a test does this before it is used for decision-making. The whole point of a psychological test is that it should be able to determine quickly information that would otherwise be time-consuming and difficult to obtain. But unless such a test’s result is highly correlated with the information obtained in the more difficult way, the test cannot be considered valid.
To show that any test for PA is valid, it would be necessary to demonstrate that the test gave the same results as would be obtained by interviews and observations of a family in which a child was rejecting contact with a parent. By definition, PA is present when a child rejects contact with one parent, that rejected parent has not behaved abusively, AND the preferred parent has worked to create alienation by manipulating and exploiting the child’s thoughts and feelings. Thus, anyone who claims that a psychological test or set of tests validly diagnose PA would have the burden of proof of showing that the tests are highly correlated with information that includes the three factors just mentioned—including observational evidence that the preferred parent’s actions have created rejection that would not have occurred otherwise. It is certainly true that there could be cases in which all three of those factors are present, but we cannot assume that psychological tests are valid measures of PA until someone systematically demonstrates that this is the case. An adequate test of PA must be able to discriminate between child rejection of a parent with and without the intervention of the preferred parent, but none of the tests in use have been shown to do that. In reality, the tests used to claim PA are “validated” against the opinion of one or more PA proponents rather than against empirical evidence—in other words, not validated at all.
PA treatments (including Family Bridges, etc.) have been claimed to be effective by their advocates, but as was the case with diagnosis, no one has accepted the burden of proof and done the work needed to demonstrate this. (Once again, this is the job of those claiming the effectiveness of a treatment; it is not the job of others to show that it is not effective.) Given the nature of the family situations and treatments, it is probably too much to ask that PA treatment advocates do randomized controlled studies, but it would be quite possible to do controlled clinical trials in which outcomes for children receiving PA treatment are compared to outcomes for children of similar characteristics who receive no treatment or some conventional form of psychotherapy. The burden of proof is not carried unless there is a well-defined, transparent standard of comparison presented. Published research on PA treatments so far has compared children’s attitudes and behavior before treatment to their own attitudes and behavior ; this is not adequate because there is rapid developmental change in adolescence and because even low-conflict families go through many changes following divorce, with or without psychological treatment.
When attorneys and family court judges meet arguments about PA diagnoses and treatments, they need to think about the right questions to ask and to realize that the burden of proof on these topics is on those making the claims, not on those who deny the claims.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Mt. Holyoke College, 1959-1961
Occidental College. 1961-63; A.B. in Psychology, 1963
9/67-6/69 Norton, MA
State University College
9/69-6/71 Buffalo, NY
9/74-9/77 Pomona, NJ
Associate Professor, Professor,
9/77-2/81 Pomona NJ
Professor of Psychology,
2/81-2006 Pomona, NJ
Professor Emerita of Psychology, Richard Stockton College (now Stockton University), 2006--
Consulting reader, Infants and Young Children,1992- 2000
Editor, The Phoenix (NJAIMH Quarterly Newsletter), 1994-1999; Editor,
Nurture Notes (NJAIMH Newsletter), 2000-2001.
Association for Infant Mental Health, 1996-2000 New Jersey
Association for Infant Mental Health, 2000-2005 New Jersey
Past president, ex officio Board of Directors member, NJAIMH, 2005- 2009
Member, Prevention and Early Intervention Committee,
Community New Jersey
Mental Health Board, 2000-2002
Consulting editor, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2002-2010
Care Campaign Advisory Committee, 2002-3 New Jersey
Fellow, Council for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, 2003-2008
Faculty member, Youth Consultation Services Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health, 2003-
Chair, Board of Professional Advisors, Advocates for Children in Therapy, 2003--
Expert witness, Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, 2005
(license revocation matter)
[*Name was legally changed from Gene Alice Lester, May, 1977]
Expert witness, Middlesex NJ Family Court, 2005 (best interest hearing)
Member, "Critical Pathways" teleconference on training and credentials (formed after ZTT/Mailman Foundation Infant Mental Health Systems Development Summit Conference, September 2005)
Consultant, Thibault vs. Thibault, Paco County FL , 2006 (child custody and discipline matter)
Jovanna Vasquez, Santa Barbara County, CA, 2007 (child abuse matter) California
Reviewer, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2008.
Testimony, Robertson vs. Mannion, Montgomery County, PA, 2008 (child custody matter)
Founding member, Institute for Science in Medicine, 2009; Board of Directors, 2014-
Reviewer, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 2009-
Board of Directors, Delaware Valley Group of WAIMH, 2010—2014.
Co-director, PA-IMH infant mental health breakfast series, 2014-2017
Editorial board, Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 2014—
Reviewer, Professional Psychology, 2015—
Reviewer, Child and Family Social Work, 2015—
Reviewer, Evidence-based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2016
Reviewer, Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2017
Reviewer, Theory & Psychology, 2018
Expert witness, Sahar vs. Sahar, Yolo County, CA, 2018 (child custody/parental alienation matter)
American Psychological Association
Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health
Society for Research in Child Development
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Mercer, J. (2005). Bubbles, bottles, baby talk, and basketty. Early Childhood Health Link
(Newsletter of Healthy Child Care New Jersey), 4(1), 1-2.
Mercer, J. (2005). Coercive Restraint Therapies: A dangerous alternative mental health intervention. Medscape General Medicine, 7(3). (see also letters in subsequent issue). http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/508956.
Mercer, J. (2006). Understanding attachment: Parenthood, child care, and emotional development. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Mercer, J. (2006). IEPs and Reactive Attachment Disorder: Recognizing and addressing misinformation. Scope (Newsletter of the Washington State Association of School Psychologists), 28(3), 2-6.
Mercer, J., Misbach, A., Pennington, R., & Rosa, L. (2006). Letter to the editor (age regression definition). Child Maltreatment, 11, 378.
Mercer, J. (2007). Behaving yourself: Moral development in the secular family. In D..McGowan (Ed.), Parenting beyond belief (pp. 104-112). New York: Amacom Books.
Mercer, J., & Pignotti, M. (2007). Letter to the editor (neurofeedback research critique). International Journal of Behavioral and Consultation Therapy, 3 (2), 324-325
Pignotti, M., & Mercer, J. (2007). Holding Therapy and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy are not supported, acceptable social work interventions: A systematic research synthesis revisited. Research on Social Work Practice,17 (4), 513-519.
Mercer, J. (2007). Systematic child maltreatment: Connections with unconventional parent and professional education. Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice Advocate (Division 37 of APA), 30 (2), pp.5-6.
Mercer, J. ( 2007).Media Watch: Wikipedia and "open source" mental health information. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 5(1), 88-92.
Mercer, J. (2007) Destructive trends in alternative infant mental health approaches. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5(2), 44-58.
Mercer, J., & Pignotti, M. (2007). Shortcuts cause errors in Systematic Research Syntheses: Rethinking evaluation of mental health interventions. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5 (2), 59-77.
Mercer, J. (2008). Minding controls in curriculum study (letter). Science, 319, 1184.
Mercer, J. (2009).Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings.Los Angeles,CA: Sage.
Mercer, J., Pennington, R.S., Pignotti, M., & Rosa, L. (2010). Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy is not "evidence-based": Comments in response to Becker-Weidman and Hughes (2009). Child and Family Social Work, 15, 1-5. http://www.wiley.com/bw/journal.asp?ref=1356-7500 . DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2009.00609.x.
Mercer, J. (2009). Child custody evaluations, attachment theory, and an attachment measure: The science remains limited. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 7(1), 37-54.
Mercer, J. (2010). Themes and variations in development: Can nanny-bots act like human caregivers? Interaction Studies, 11(2), 233-237.
Mercer, J. (2011). Attachment theory and its vicissitudes: Toward an updated theory. Theory and Psychology, 21, 25-45.
Mercer, J. (2011). The concept of psychological regression: Metaphors, mapping, Queen Square, and Tavistock Square. History of Psychology,14, 174-196.
Mercer, J. (2011). Some aspects of CAM mental health interventions: Regression, recapitulation, and “secret sympathies”. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 8, 36-55.
Mercer, J. (2011). Book review: Rachel Stryker’s (2010) The road to Evergreen. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 8, 69-74.
Mercer.J. (2011). Martial arts research: Weak evidence. (Letter). Science, 334, 310-311.
Mercer, J. (2012). Reply to Sudbery, Shardlow, and Huntington: Holding therapy. British Journal of Social Work, 42, 556-559 . DOI: 10.1093/bjsw.bcr078.
Mercer, J. (2013). Child development: Myths and misunderstandings, 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Mercer, J., (2013). Deliverance, demonic possession, and mental illness: Some considerations for mental health professionals. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture 16(6), 596-611. DOI:10.1080.13674676.2012.707272.
Mercer, J. (2013). Attachment in children and adolescents. (Childhood Studies section). H. Montgomery (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online. www.oxfordbibliographies.com.
Mercer, J. (2013). Holding Therapy in Britain: Historical background, recent events, and ethical concerns. Adoption & Fostering, 37(2), 144-156.
Mercer, J. (2013). Holding therapy: A harmful alternative mental health intervention. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 18(2), 70-76.
Mercer, J. (2013). Giving parents information about Reactive Attachment Disorder: Some problems. Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 29 (8), 1, 6-7.
Mercer, J. (2014). International concerns about Holding Therapy. Research on Social Work Practice, 24(2), 188-191.
Mercer, J. (2014). Children in institutions. (Letter). Zero to Three, 34(4), 4.
Mercer, J. (2014). Examining Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy as a treatment for adopted and foster children. Research on Social Work Practice, 24, 715-724. Doi:10.11771049731513513516803.
Mercer, J., ( 2014). Alternative psychotherapies: Evaluating unconventional mental health treatments. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
[Review: Thyer, B. (2015). Playing whack-a-mole with pseudoscientific psychotherapies. PsycCritiques, 60(28), Article 5.]
Mercer, J. (2014). Parenting: Section deserves a scolding (LTE). Science, 345(6204), 1571.
Mercer, J. (2015). Attachment therapy. In S.O. Lilienfeld, S.J. Lynn, & J.M. Lohr (Eds.), Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (2nd edition) (pp. 466-499). New York: Guilford.
Mercer, J. (2015). Attachment therapies. In R. Cautin & S.O. Lilienfeld (Eds.), Encyclopedia of clinical psychology. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
Mercer, J. (2015). Controversial therapies. In R. Cautin & S.O.Lilienfeld (Eds.), Encyclopedia of clinical psychology. New York:Wiley-Blackwell.
Mercer, J. (2015). Thinking critically about child development: Examining myths and misunderstandings ( 3rd ed. of Child development: Myths and misunderstandings).
Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Mercer, J. (2015). Revisiting an article about Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: The life cycle of a “woozle”. Child and Adolescent Social Work, 32(5), 397-404.
Mercer, J. (2015), Examining Circle of Security: A review of research and theory. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(3), 382-392.
Mercer, J. (2017). Evidence of potentially harmful psychological treatments for children and adolescents. Child and Adolescent Social Work, 34, 107-125.. DOI: 1007/s10560-016-0480-2. Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10560-016-0480-2?sap-outbound-id=15F8540F330C2FDCFB43493B1AD91F0D8FA120D8&utm_source=SAPHybris&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3068&utm_term=CtW_Authors___DA-ZIC_DC_EMAIL_STAR-DC_PERSONALIZATION03&utm_content=EN
Mercer, J. (2017). Examining DIR/Floortime as a treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(5),625-637.
Mercer, J. (2017). Conventional and unconventional perspectives on attachment and attachment problems: Comparisons and implications, 2006-2016. Child and Adolescent Social Work. http://rdcu.be/u2u2.
Mercer, J. (2018). Child development: Concepts and theories. London: Sage.
Mercer, J., Hupp, S., & Jewell, J. (2019). Thinking critically about child development (4th edition). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Mercer, J. (2019). Are parental alienation treatments safe and effective for children and adolescents? Journal of Child Custody. DOI: 10.1080/15379418.2018.1557578
Mercer, J. (2019). Chto takoe privyazannost? Ehmocionalnoe razvitie, roditelstvo, uhod za detmi. Translation of Understanding attachment. Moscow: Cogito-Centre, 2019.
Mercer, J. (2019). Response to Comments on "Conventional and Unconventional Perspectives on Attachment and Attachment Problems: Comparisons and Implications, 2006-2016." Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. DOI: 10.1007/s10560-019-00608-9
Hupp, S., Mercer, J., Thyer, B., & Pignotti, M. (2019). Critical thinking about psychotherapy. In
S. Hupp (Ed.), Pseudoscience in child and adolescent psychotherapy (pp. 1-13).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mercer, J. (2019). Trauma and attachment. In S. Hupp (Ed.), Pseudoscience in child and
adolescent psychotherapy (pp. 172-188). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
UNPUBLISHED/ IN PREPARATION:
Lester, G. (1968). Some investigations of the audiogyral illusion. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis,
. Brandeis University
Mercer, J. (1993) The successful single parent. Unpublished book-length ms.
Mercer, J. The developing child in
changing times: Infancy through adolescence Unpublished book-length ms.
Invited comments on the New Jersey Children’s Initiative proposal (
March 10, 2000);
with Gerard Costa and Elaine Herzog.
Invited comments on the U.S. Bright Futures children’s mental health proposal (July 5, 2000); with Gerard Costa.
Mercer, J. (2000). Notes on Attachment Therapy: Relevant Research and Theory. Prepared for use by the prosecution in the trial of Connell Watkins, Colorado, April 2001.
Sarner, L., & Mercer, J. (2003). Statement to Human Resources Subcommittee of House Ways and Means Committee. http:// waysandmeans.house.gov/hearings.asp?formmode+view&id+1342.
Mercer, J. (January, 2005). Expert witness report. State of Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. Case number 2002-223.
Mercer, J. (April, 2005). Expert witness report. Child custody case, Middlesex Family Court, New Brunswick, NJ.
Mercer, J. (October, 2006). Expert witness report. Child custody case,
. Pasco County, Florida
Mercer, J. ( Associate editor; in production). Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. (S. Hupp & J. Jewell, Eds.)
Mercer, J. (in preproduction). Attachment research. In S.Hupp & J.Jewell (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
Mercer, J. (in production). Perinatal mood disorders. In S.Hupp & J.Jewell (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
BLOGS AND OTHER INTERNET MATERIALS:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/161745967794736/ Psychology Continuing Education Watch
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIa27ptA3WQ&feature=youtu.be (article summary)
Remarks to Russian psychology conference, presented by Dr. Michael Ivanov (2016): https://vimeo.com/159317432
“Attachment therapies and associated parenting techniques.” www.scienceinmedicine.org/policy/papers/AttachmentTherapy.pdf.
“Critical thinking and the mastery of child development concepts.” www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/critical-thinking.html.
Various presentations on child development and parenting issues to parent groups and
training workshops, including CASA.
“Law, policy, and attachment issues”; presentation at the Second Annual Conference on Attachment of the New Jersey Psychological Association. June 9, 2000, Newark, NJ (Social work CE units).
“Custody changes and their effect on children’s development”; presentation at New Jersey State Child Placement Advisory Council conference, April, 2001 (Social work CE units).
“Bad language: How the professions confuse each other with words,” welcoming address at conference on Attachment, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health,
Piscataway, NJ, April, 2002 (Social work CE units).
“That cranky, crying baby”; presentation at National Association for Education of Young Children Conference on Health in Child Care, Princeton, NJ, May, 2002; repeated May, 2003, May, 2004.
“Warning Signals: When parents consider unusual mental health treatments for their children”; presentation at Third Annual Multicultural Health Conference, Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ, Sept. 2002.
“Misuse and abuse of attachment theory”; keynote speech at 2002 Annual Meeting, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, Piscataway, NJ, Nov. 2002.
“Attachment Therapy: Science adversaries appeal to scientific evidence.” Institute of Contemporary British History conference, “Science, Its Advocates and Adversaries”, London, July 7-9, 2003.
“Analyzing Attachment Therapy”, at “Right From the Start: Supporting the Earliest Relationships and their Impact on Later Years,” professional conference presented by Youth Consultation Services Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health, Newark, Sept. 24-25, 2003 (continuing professional education credit-bearing).
“Principles of Infant Mental Health”, at “What Does Infant Mental Health Mean to Me?”, professional conference sponsored by New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, Gateway Maternal-Child Health Consortium, Northwest Maternal-Child Health Consortium, Piscataway, NJ, Nov. 13, 2003 (continuing professional education credit- bearing).
“Attachment and Attachment Therapy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, at annual meeting, Gateway Maternal-Child Health Consortium. East Orange, NJ, March 25, 2004 (Continuing professional education credit).
“Attachment.” Annual conference of New Jersey Association for Education of Young Children, East Brunswick, NJ, Oct. 16, 2004 (continuing professional education
Discussion of Attachment Therapy. “All in the Mind”, Australian Broadcasting Company, Dec. 18, 2004. Transcript available at http://abc.net.au/rn/science/mind.
“Attachment: Social and Emotional Development from Birth to Preschool.” Conference of Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators, East Brunswick, NJ, March 18, 2005.
“Attachment Therapy: Concerns on Unvalidated Treatments.” Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health Didactic Series, Youth Consultation Service, East Orange, NJ, May 12, 2005.
"Violent therapies with children: History and theory.” 9th International Family Violence Research Conference, Portsmouth, NH, July 11, 2005.
Invited state delegate and
presenter, Infant Mental Health Systems Development Summit conference,
sponsored by Mailman Foundation/Zero to Three. New Jersey ,
Sept. 22-24, 2005. Washington DC
New Jersey Perinatal Mood Disorders training program presentations, 2005-2006.
“Dangerous therapies”, with Alan Misbach. LCSW. Independent Educational Consultants Association conference,
, Nov. 14, 2005. Philadelphia
"Attachment Therapy". Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health Didactic Series, Youth Consultation Service, East Orange, NJ, April 27, 2006.
"Attachment Therapy" comments, Paula Zahn show, CNN, Nov. 14, 2006.
"Attachment Therapy" comments, Court TV, Nov. 27, 2006.
"Understanding attachment." Delaware Valley Group, WAIMH.
Dec. 1, 2006.
"Strategies for picky eaters." Jan 31, 2007, NJ WIC training, Ewing, NJ.
"Just the facts, ma'am: Asking and answering the right questions about evidence-based treatment."
Association for Infant Mental Health, Florida Ft.
Panel on secular parenting, moderated by Dale McGowan. Atheist
Sept. 29, 2007. Arlington, VA
"Circumstantial Evidence: Evaluating Design and Details of Outcome Research" (poster presentation). Dec. 1, 2007. Zero to Three National Training Institute, Orlando, Florida.
"Theory of Mind: A New Approach to Attachment." Conference of Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators, New Brunswick, NJ, March 14, 2008.
"Novel Unsupported Therapies: Pseudoscientific and Cult-like". With Monica Pignotti and James Herbert. International Cultic Studies Association conference, Philadelphia, June 27, 2008.
"Attachment Theory, Evidence-based Practice, and Rogue Therapies: Using and Misusing the Concept of Attachment." With R.S. Pennington, L. Rosa, and L. Sarner. Wisconsin School Psychologists Association conference, LaCrosse, WI, Oct. 29, 2008.
"Are There Research-based Child Custody Evaluations? An Ongoing Case and an Ongoing Discussion." Annual Conference,
for Infant Mental Health, Dec. 12, 2008, North Brunswick, NJ. New Jersey
“A Problematic Parenting Pattern Associated With Child Deaths.” Eastern Psychological Association, March7, 2009, Pittsburgh, PA.
“Personalities and Power Struggles: Discipline, Temperament, and Attachment.” Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators Annual Conference, March 14, 2009, Somerset, NJ.
“Don’t Be So [Un]critical! Using Critical Thinking to Foster Mastery of Child development Concepts.” Developmental Science Teaching Institute, Society for Research in Child Development, April 1, 2009, Denver, CO.
“Psychological Concepts and Measures in the Family Court”. Judicial Orientation, Essex Vicinage (NJ). Princeton, NJ, Oct. 2, 2009. (With Michelle DeKlyen, Ph.D.)
“Are There Research-Based Child Custody Evaluations?”. Conference on Infants and Children in the Courts, sponsored by Youth Consultation Service and NJAIMH; Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, NJ, March 19, 2010.
“Unconventional Psychotherapies: Some Questions About Their History.” Eastern Psychological Association, March 11, 2011, Cambridge, MA.
“Myths and Misunderstandings.” Conference of the Delaware Valley Group of the World Association for Infant Mental Health, Feb. 3, 2012, Philadelphia, PA.
Comments on Attachment Therapy and treatment of Russian adoptees. “Life with Mikhail Zelensky”, Rossiya-1 TV, Feb. 21, 2013.
“Fetal Psychology in Psychohistory.” Eastern Psychological Association, March 2, 2013, New York.
“Jirina Prekopova’s holding therapy: Scientifically founded or otherwise?” Conference of the International Working Group on Abuse in Child Psychotherapy, April 20, 2013, London.
“ ‘Nancy Thomas parenting’ in the U.S. and Russia: Another part of the holding therapy problem.” With Yulia Massino. Conference of the International Working Group on Abuse in Child Psychotherapy, April 20, 2013, London.
Testimony on “conversion therapy” bill, New Jersey State Assembly committee, June, 2013, Trenton.
“Evidence-based treatment versus alternative psychotherapies.” APLA (Associace pomahajic lidem s autismem; Czech division of Autism Europe), October 17, 2013, Prague, CR.
“What are holding therapies?” APLA, October 19, 2013, Samechov, CR.
“About attachment”. PA-IMH breakfast group, Oct. 3, 2014, Philadelphia, PA. APA CEUs given.
“Systematic misunderstandings about attachment. Nov. 20, 2014, ABCT, Philadelphia, PA. Preconference, “Social Learning”.
“Legislation to prohibit potentially harmful psychotherapies for children: Three cases.” Poster presentation, APA, Toronto, 2015.
“Challenges of disseminating evidence-based material through the Web.” . Symposium: The Role of Technology in Disseminating Psychology. APA, Toronto, 2015.
“Born that way! The role of temperament”. PA-IMH breakfast group, Oct. 2, 2015.
“Temperament.” Philadelphia School for the Deaf, Jan. 27, 2016.
“Evaluating mental health interventions on Internet registries.” PA-IMH breakfast group, Sept. 9, 2016 (2 CEs).
“Internet registries and clearinghouses: Evaluation of mental health interventions for children.” NCCCP, Lawrence, KS, Sept. 23, 2016.
“Modern myths and misperceptions: Parental Alienation”. With Steve Hupp. ABCT Social Learning and the Family Preconference. New York, Oct. 26, 2016.
“Changing concepts of attachment”. PA-IMH breakfast group, April 7, 2017 (2 CEs).
“Potentially harmful psychotherapies for children: How not to be addicted to pseudoscience and popular beliefs.” Conference on Modern Challenges: Psychology of Addictions, sponsored by Moscow Psychoanalytic Institute and PSYCHOLOGIES, Moscow, Feb 10, 2018. (Presentation by Skype.) Available at https://yadi.sk/i/fMGcDn_e3TS5fZ.
“Pseudoscience and Potentially Harmful Treatments for Children.” Workshop for College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists, Hobart, Tasmania, May 9, 2018. 4 CE credits, Australian Psychological Society.
“A pattern of systematic abuse associated with beliefs and instruction.” Poster with Alan Misbach. APSAC Colloquium, New Orleans. June 14, 2018.
“Family engagement, trauma, and attachment. “ Presented to PAIMH groups; Philadelphia, Sept. 7, 2018, Bethlehem PA, Sept. 14, 2018. (meets criteria for IMH endorsement credit)
Panelist, “A duty to warn? A discussion of potentially harmful therapies.” ABCT conference, Nov. 17, 2018, Washington, DC. Amanda Jensen-Doss, moderator.
“Examining the unexamined belief: Claim, ground, warrant, and critical thinking about child development.” Round table with Steve Hupp. Society for Research in Child Development
Teaching Institute, Baltimore, March 20, 2019.