Study supports joint custody as healthy option for kids

Study supports joint custody as healthy option for kids

20360301_S.jpgIn discussions about what is best for children after a parental divorce, assumptions sometimes get more weight and credibility than they should. For instance, shared custody has been growing in the United States, including here in Illinois, but it is still not as common as it is in some other countries. And a frequent argument against shared child custody is that kids would turn into “suitcase kids” – forever bouncing back and forth between homes with no sense of stability.

While this may certainly be a problem for some kids, a recent study suggests that children generally fare better in shared custody situations than they do when living primarily with just one parent. The study was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, and was based on tracking the health of nearly 150,000 pre-teens and teens in Sweden.

The students examined in the study were 12-year-olds in sixth grade and 15-year-olds in ninth grade. Their family living situations included:

  • Two-parent households (so-called nuclear families): 69 percent
  • Time divided between divorced parents: 19 percent
  • One-parent households: 13 percent

In order to determine the relative wellbeing of these students, researchers examined the prevalence of their psychosomatic symptoms (physical manifestations of their stress and other emotional issues). These included things like upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, etc.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, kids from two-parent households tended to have the fewest psychosomatic symptoms. But in comparing children of divorce, those who shared time between two households had “significantly fewer” symptoms than kids living primarily with one parent.

There are likely several reasons for this disparity. The first is that children in the two-household situation would have regular and frequent access to both parents. Therefore, maintaining a relationship with both parents would be relatively easy. Another reason is that kids who share time with both parents likely have access to the resources of two caring adults, including but not limited to money and material goods.

As we have written in previous posts, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for child custody. When both parents are fit parents and want to stay actively involved, however, this study seems to suggest that pursuing a joint custody solution would often be in the best interests of children.

Source: TIME, “This Divorce Arrangement Stresses Kids Out Most,” Mandy Oaklander, April 27, 2015

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