Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Custody Suite

4 out of 10 marriages in the UK end up in divorce. Many of these couples have children. Probably the most difficult part of divorce is deciding who is going take care of these bundles of joy. In this case, both parents want full custody. A fair solution seems agree on split custody (the child live two weeks with one parent and another two weeks with the other parent). Neither of the parents wants this. It appears that the zone of possible agreement is non-existent.

What is the next step?

To prevent this in the future, I suggest putting a clause in prenuptial agreement that makes partners committed towards putting their children first (something along the lines of not putting the children through unnecessary stress – which would mean not moving house and having as much stability as possible in case of a divorce). If we apply the Foot-in-the-door technique (Freedman & Fraser, 1966), making this commitment before the marriage, could improve custody negotiations in the future, as it is entrenched in our human nature to be consistent with what we agreed on in the past. Additionally, in the time of signing prenuptial agreement, parents are less emotional. Druckman and Olekalns (2008) have shown that emotions play crucial role in negotiation. Druckman and Olekalns (2008) found out that emotions prevent successful negotiations. If the negotiators are angry, the negotiation is difficult and competitive, and possibly triggering disinterest and withdrawal from the process (Forgas 1998; Knapp and Miller 1985; Van Kleef et al. 2004). That is why it is important to have lawyers (mediators) present when deciding about things as important as custody of children.

For one of the parents to be in a better position to negotiate he or she should ask for full custody with all holidays to be spent at his or her place. By applying the Door-in-the-face technique, there is space for negotiation and hopefully both parents will eventually feel they got the better deal  (Cialdini et al., 1975).

So what is your best shot at having the full custody?  Leave your emotions behind, get a good lawyer but most importantly think about how your child feels.


Cialdini, R.B.; Vincent, J.E., Lewis, S.K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). "Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: the door-in-the-face technique.". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31.

Druckman, D., & Olekalns, M. (2008). Emotions in negotiation. Group Decision and Negotiation, 17(1), 1-11.

Forgas, J.P. (1998). On feeling good and getting your way: mood effects on negotiator cognition and bargaining
strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), 74:565–577

Freedman, J.L. & Fraser, S.C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 195-202.

Knapp, M.L. & Miller, G.R.(1985). Handbook of interpersonal communication. Sage, Beverly Hills, CA

Van Kleef, G.A., De Dreu C. K. W., & Manstead, A.S. (2004). The interpersonal effects of anger and happiness in
negotiations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86:57–76

A blog by Bebe
(Alzbeta Husakova) 

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