A new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that children cope better when they spend time living with each parent.
Study author, Malin Bergstrom, researcher at the Centre of Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, Sweden, says that the current thinking is that children in shared custody situations are exposed to more stress from constantly moving around. “But this study opposes a major concern that this should not be good for children.”
The researchers wanted to find out whether kids who live part time with each parent were more stressed than kids who lived full time with one parent. They studied data from 150,000 12- and 15-year-old students and studied psychosomatic health problems, such as sleeping disorders, headaches, stomachaches, difficulty concentrating and feeling tense and sad. They found that 69% lived in a two-parent family, 19% spent time living part time with each parent and 13% lived with one parent.
Children in two-parent families reported the lowest incidence of psychosomatic symptoms, but the most interesting finding was that kids who lived part time between their parents were better off than kids who lived with one parent.
“We think that having everyday contact with both parents seems to be more important, in terms of stress, than living in two different homes,” says Bergström. “It may be difficult to keep up on engaged parenting if you only see your child every second weekend.”
Added to this was that kids with two parents are more likely to have access to greater financial resources and social circles, which reduces the stress or vulnerability felt by the child.
In Sweden, shared parenting is now the most common way divorced parents agree to care for their children. In the United States, one parent gaining the majority of the custody is still more common. Ned Holstein, MD, founder and acting executive director of the National Parents Organization, says that the research in favor of shared parenting for kids is overwhelming. “You’ll hear opponents say, ‘You’ll turn them into suitcase kids; they don’t want to be dragged back and forth,’” Holstein says. “Clearly, taking the suitcase back and forth once or twice a week so that you spend a lot of time with both parents is way better for the kids than the alternative of basically losing an intimate and closely loving relationship with one parent.”
In Australia, the family law courts also favour shared parenting. The Family Law Act 1975 states that the most important consideration is the best interests of the child. It also makes it clear that both parents are responsible for the care and welfare of their children while under the age of 18, and that children should receive the benefit of having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
We believe that in the absence of harm, children should be given the chance to form a meaningful relationship with each parent. This was reflected in the recent English case where a mother was prevented from moving to Hong Kong with their child, because the father was worried his relationship with his child would suffer.
If you are concerned about the parenting arrangements for your children, or are thinking of separation and divorce, contact us today for a free 10-minute consultation. We are experienced at negotiating low-stress arrangements with the best interests of the child in mind at all times.