Fifty-fifty split best for children of divorce

September 7, 2017 by Elin Bäckström, Uppsala University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Preschool children in joint physical custody have less psychological symptoms than those who live mostly or only with one parent after a separation. In a new study of 3,656 children in Sweden, researchers from Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the research institute CHESS show that 3-5-year-olds living alternately with their parents after a separation show less behavioural problems and psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one of the parents.

The practice of joint physical custody, i.e. living alternately and spending approximately the same amount of time in their ' respective homes, have increased in recent years and is more common in Sweden than in any other countries. Previous studies have shown that school children and adolescents fare well in joint physical custody. Child experts have claimed the practice to be unsuitable for young children since they are assumed to need continuity and stability in their parent relations. However, few studies of with joint physical custody have been conducted.

Assessments by parents and preschool staff

Based on parents' and preschool teachers' estimates, the researchers compared and mental symptoms of 136 children in joint physical custody, 3,369 in nuclear families, 79 living mostly with one parent and 72 children living only with one parent. In this sample, joint physical custody was hence more common than living only or mostly with one parent. The symptoms were assessed using the popular "Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire" (SDQ), and showed that both preschool teachers and parents indicated children living mostly or only with one parent to have more difficulties than those living in joint physical custody or in nuclear families. In the parental estimates, there were no significant differences between children in nuclear families and joint physical custody, while preschool staff reported fewer symptoms of children in .

The study, conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the research institute CHESS, is the first of its kind to show how Swedish children this young fare in joint physical custody. The assessments of children's health from the preschool staff, in addition to those of the parents, is a considerable strength of the study. However, the study design does not allow any interpretations of causal relations. Such interpretations require knowledge of the children's wellbeing and symptoms before parental separation.

Explore further: Shared custody equals less stress for children

More information: Malin Bergström et al, Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent, Acta Paediatrica (2017). DOI: 10.1111/apa.14004

Related Stories

Shared custody equals less stress for children

August 30, 2017
Children who live full time with one parent are more likely to feel stressed than children in shared custody situations. The benefit holds regardless of the level of conflict between the parents or between parent and child. ...

Family break-up linked to heightened risk of psychosomatic problems in teens

April 27, 2015
Parental separation or divorce is linked to a heightened risk of psychosomatic problems among the children in the family, indicates research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Increased cooperation between preschool and CHC to identify children with mental health problems

January 13, 2017
It is beneficial to systematise the exchange of information between parents, preschool and child care centres (CHCs) to increase the focus on young children with mental health problems. This is shown in a recently conducted ...

Parent engagement programs increase student readiness for kindergarten

April 5, 2017
Kindergarten teachers report that of the 32 million children living in poverty or low-income homes in the United States, nearly half lack strong social-emotional skills and are not "ready to succeed in school," according ...

Parents' divorce increases risk of health disorders in children

May 25, 2017
Children's well-being is among the biggest concerns when a couple gets a divorce. Scientists at the universities of Santiago de Compostela and Vigo have carried out a study into how divorce affects children's health, finding ...

Recommended for you

Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools

February 23, 2018
Children as young as seven apply basic laws of physics to problem-solving, rather than learning from what has previously been rewarded, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

The 'loudness' of our thoughts affects how we judge external sounds

February 23, 2018
The "loudness" of our thoughts—or how we imagine saying something—influences how we judge the loudness of real, external sounds, a team of researchers from NYU Shanghai and NYU has found.

Study: Tinder loving cheaters—dating app facilitates infidelity

February 23, 2018
The popular dating app Tinder is all about helping people form new relationships. But for many college-aged people, it's also helping those in relationships cheat on their romantic partners.

Looking for the origins of schizophrenia

February 23, 2018
Schizophrenia may be related to neurodevelopmental changes, including brain's inability to generate an appropriate vascular system, according to new study resulted from a partnership between the D"Or Institute for Research ...

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.