While every case involving child custody must consider the best interests of the children involved, researchers and experts continue to identify underlying trends in family dynamics. Findings of such studies and projects may not be immediately applicable to an individual case before the court, but they can often provide a useful perspective for couples who may wish to negotiate child custody without resorting to litigation. With that in mind, a new study seems to show that children fare best after a divorce when they are able to spend time living with both parents.
Conducted by researchers at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, Sweden, and published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the project challenged the idea that moving back and forth between divorced parents’ homes can increase stress for children. “Child experts and people in general assumed that these children should be more stressed,” said lead author Malin Bergstrӧm, PhD. The findings of the study, however, suggested that the opposite may be true.
The team looked at data related to nearly 150,000 Swedish students aged 12 or 15 in 6th or 9th grade and examined the living arrangements and psychosomatic problems of each. Issues included sleep problems, difficulty with concentration, appetite loss, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, tension, and others. Participants who lived in two-parent nuclear families reported the lowest number of problems, which came as little surprise to the researchers. More interesting, however, was the finding that those who spent significant living time with each separated parent reported substantially fewer issues than participants living with one parent only.
Dr. Bergstrӧm noted that regular contact with both parents, regardless of their relationship with each other, seemed to outweigh the inconvenience of separate homes. “It may be difficult to keep up on engaged parenting if you only see your child every second weekend,” she said. Her interpretation echoes a similar idea from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which maintains that children fare better with the active involvement of both parents, despite the end of marriage and separate living arrangements.
The National Parents Organization estimates that less than 20 percent of divorced parents share physical custody of their child in the United States. The organization’s founder, Ned Holstein, MD, believes the research evidence in favor of shared parenting is becoming clearer. Transitioning between homes once or twice a week, he said, gives a child the time that he or she needs with both parents, creating a positive alternative to losing a relationship with either parent.
If you are going through a divorce and would like to pursue a shared custody arrangement for your child, you need a qualified lawyer on your side. Contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney today to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case and help you achieve the outcome that best suits your family’s needs.