Shared Custody Best For Children’s Mental Health After Divorce, Study Finds

STOCKHOLM — Children of divorced parents who have a shared custody arrangement fare better than those who live full-time with a single parent, a new study finds.

Researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden looked at a survey containing data on 807 children of divorcees with various types of living arrangements.

Child in middle of divorce
Children of divorced parents who have a shared custody arrangement fare better than those who live full-time with a single parent, a new study finds.

Contained within the data were answers to inquiries on the level of stress experienced by the children, and how the children in question got along with their parents.

Parents, in turn, had been asked to describe their relations with their former partner.

The researchers found that children living with only parent were more likely to experience stress several times a week, regardless of how well a child got along with their parents  or how well the parents got along with one another.

Lead researcher Jani Turunen says that, contrary to what some anecdotal studies have warned, his study found that the prospect of an unstable living situation within a shared custody arrangement poses a negligible threat to children.

Turunen believes that children who alternate between living with their mom and dad benefit as they are able to develop an “active relationship” with each, which is linked to well-being.

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This dynamic quality often leads to better parenting, completing a virtuous circle.

Previous research had discovered how single-parent arrangements led to worse psychological health in children, but this inquiry is the first of its kind in that it specifically looks at stress.

A distinction was made by the researchers between shared legal custody (i.e., both parents being able to make decisions for their child, but don’t necessarily see their child in equal doses), and shared physical custody, in which each parent spends about an even amount of time with their shared child.

The study’s findings were published in July in the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage.

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