New Study Finds Kids Could Benefit from Joint Custody Arrangement in Divorce
There has been considerable debate about the type of custody arrangement that works best for the children of divorcing parents. According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, kids fare better when they are able to split their time between both of their divorced parents.
Current thinking prioritizes stability when it comes to the healthy development of children. However, the study’s findings challenge assumptions that kids in shared custody arrangements experience more stress due to the social upheaval and unpredictability that comes with constantly moving between two homes. One interpretation of the study is that living with both parents part time also tends to double the number of social circles and resources a child is exposed to, which can help reduce stress.
Researcher Malin Bergström of the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, Sweden, and her colleagues examined national data from around 150,000 students ranging in age from 12 to 15. They studied their psychosomatic health issues, including sleep problems, concentration difficulties, headaches, loss of appetite and feelings of tenseness or sadness. Sixty-nine percent of the students lived in nuclear families, while 19 percent divided their time living with both parents and around 13 percent lived with one parent.
The results showed that children in nuclear families reported the fewest symptoms of stress. However, surprisingly, those who lived with both of their divorced parents in two homes reported significantly fewer health problems than kids who lived in a stable home with only one parent after their divorce. The overall findings indicate that stability in the relationships children have with their parents outweighs stability in housing.
So what does this mean? It could be that children may be more impacted by the conflict between parents rather than the actual parental separation. When parents effectively manage their conflict, the results can be hugely gratifying and can result in a co-parenting strategy that works well for everyone.
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