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The tender years doctrine, or the practice of awarding infants and young children to mothers in custody disputes, was employed in most state courts from the late 19th century until the 1960s. The tender years doctrine is based on the idea that mothers have superior, “natural” nurturing abilities and a biological connection to their infants. In the 1970s, most states abolished the tender years doctrine and replaced it with a genderneutral “best interests of the child” standard. However, some current research claims that a maternal preference, especially in custody disputes over infants, continues to exist in practice in lower-level courts.

History of Child Custody Law

Historically, fluctuations in child custody law have reflected societal changes in beliefs about parenthood. Until the midto late 1800s, fathers had sole ...

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