Psychologist Penelope Leach, whose parenting books have sold millions, says that as a general rule, children aged four and under should not be separated from their mother and sleepover at their father if couples have separated.

She says that ‘sharing’ young children puts ‘adult right’s above ‘children’s rights’ and if young children are separated from their mothers and have to sleep over at their father’s house there is “undisputed” evidence that this “reduces brain development” and creates a tendency toward “unhealthy attachment issues”.

In her new book Family Breakdown she says: “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”.

“When a lawyer bids for his client to have his baby or toddler to stay overnight each weekend they are both ignoring clear evidence that such overnight separations from the mother are not only usually distressing, but also potentially damaging to the brain development and secure attachment of children under about four”.

She added that the rights of a child must always outweigh those of the parents, and challenged the idea that “equal parenting ought to be equal numbers of days and nights with each parent, without regard with what is best for the individual child. It can be damaging to the child to divide time equally between the parents.”

Her views have angered father’s rights groups and have been called ‘worrying’ and ‘absolute poison’

What do you think? Should children under four not sleep over at their dad’s house if the parents have separated? Is it damaging to kids? In organising shared arrangements are we putting adult’s rights over those of the children?