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Positive Partners, Strong Families

Aware by 1998 that existing services were not addressing the needs of men, or for that matter of families, Men's Centre members asked Dr Goodyear-Smith and her colleague Dr Tannis Laidlaw to design and study a scientifically-based programme to discover what actually does work to reduce family violence and conflict.

Positive Partners, Strong Families logoOur new Positive Partners, Strong Families course was launched in Wellington at the Fathers Families and the Future day, 17th April 1999. 'Positive Partners, Strong Families' is a two-hour course, one evening weekly for 8 weeks, teaching communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills for couples. 

In an article: An Intervention that Supports Marriage, Dr Goodyear-Smith wrote: My colleagues and I are developing a psychoeducation programme for parents in conflict which uses behavioural / cognitive techniques to teach communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills. It does not aim to resolve past problems and grievances. There is no attempt to assess who is right or wrong; who has done what to whom; or who is to blame for any past interpersonal conflicts or violent acts. The course is about present and future acts. Participants acquire skills and knowledge which enable them to have more choices in their future responses to their partners and to other people in their lives. The focus is on changing interpersonal relationships rather than individuals per se.

An attack on Men's Centre's 'Positive Partners - Strong Families' course titled 'Address power and control issues' from two of the 'Behind Closed Doors' presenters was published in the NZ Doctor 26th May 99.

Dr Goodyear-Smith responded that Inter-partner Violence is a Relationship, not a 'Power and Control' Issue. Contrary to feminist theory, women do not only resort to violence as a pre-emptive strike or in self-defence.

University Re-approves Positive Partners Research After Complaints. On 14th April 1999, as we prepared to leave for the Wellington father's forum, the NZ Herald published a story reporting that Auckland University Medical School Dean Peter Gluckman was sending the research project associated with our new Positive Partners, Strong Families course back to the ethics committee. Complaints were received from Clinical Psychology lecturer Dr John Read, Rape Crisis, Help Foundation and the Safe offender treatment programme about my (JohnP's) involvement in the course. They said their concern was because I have a conviction for indecent assault on underage girls when I lived with my father at Centrepoint Community in the late 1970's. The North Harbour News reported that North Harbour Family Violence Protection Project spokesman Reese Helmondollar is among course opponents warning people not to enrol. He said the Men's Centre philosophy is at odds with the 32 anti-violence groups belonging to his organisation. "It [the Men's Centre philosophy] gives the message that men are able to control their family. This is potentially damaging to women and children."

Some examples of media reports on complaints.

Faced with this degree of hostility and opposition, and the negative publicity that swiftly followed each attempt to promote Positive Partners, Strong Families, the voluntary organisers eventually ran out of energy, and the project was shelved. 

Communication Course Study Published Using a domestic violence model focusing on faulty interaction patterns within relationships, a cognitive-behavioural intervention 'Positive Partners, Strong Families' was provided by Men's Centre North Shore to couples to teach communication and conflict resolution skills in a community-based setting. This eight week intervention taught participants to change their own attitudes and behaviours, which could then reflect upon the relationship itself. A pilot assessment was conducted, and a report published [81KB PDF] in the NZ Family Physician August 2003. Data assessment (n=14) demonstrated significant differences before and after the intervention for consensus, satisfaction, affection, cohesion and use of reasoning to resolve conflicts. At six month follow-up participants retained all improvements apart from consensus, indicating that the programme led to significant, sustained improvements in couples' communication and conflict resolution abilities.

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