Kids of Divorce Less Stressed When Custody Is Shared

Navigating 2 households appears less stressful than hardly seeing one parent
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2017 7:03 AM CDT
Kids Do Better Under Shared, Not Sole, Custody
Children of divorce appear to fare better in many ways when they get to spend considerable time with each parent.   (Getty Images / lovro77)

When courts get involved in child custody cases, kids end up in the full custody of their moms 80% of the time. New research suggests the thinking behind this trend—that conflict between parents is so harmful to kids they should avoid shared custody—is all wrong. In fact, a team out of Sweden reports in the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage that kids have a harder time missing one of their parents than they do coping with their parents not getting along. "If you want to hasten the process of healing, or at least tolerance, the worst thing you can do is declare one person a winner and one person a loser," one expert tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "You're both winners. You're both going to be parents. That will actually diminish conflict."

To test this, researchers analyzed data on more than 800 children in Sweden's Surveys of Living Conditions. Kids who live with just one of their parents are more likely to experience stress multiple times a week than kids in joint custody, they report in a press release. "There has previously been a concern that shared physical custody could be an unstable living situation that can lead to children becoming more stressed," says researcher Jani Turunen. But, per the press release, he contends those concerns are built "on theoretical assumptions rather than empirical research." Shared custody allows children to maintain active relationships with both parents, gives them more resources that each parent has separate access to, and takes away worry over the parent they rarely see. (Brad Pitt has "therapeutic visits," not custody.)

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