A new study has found that shared custody arrangements between separated parents can be much less stressful for children than living full-time with one parent.
It highlighted that shared custody in this case means the sharing of physical custody, where the child lives for a roughly equal time with each parent in their separate households. This is not the same as shared legal custody, where both parents have a say in how the child is raised.
The study, by researchers at Stockholm University, questioned over 800 children about their living arrangements, how often they feel stressed, and how well they get on with their parents.
It revealed that children who live with just one parent were more likely to feel stressed several times a week than those with shared custody arrangements. This was true regardless of how well the parents got on with each other or whether the child had good relationships with both parents.
“There has previously been a concern that shared physical custody could be an unstable living situation that can lead to children becoming more stressed,” commented lead researcher Jani Turunen. “But those who pointed to it earlier have built their concerns on theoretical assumptions, rather than empirical research.”
He suggested that children experienced less stress with shared physical custody arrangements because they can have ‘active relationships’ with both parents, which has been proven to be beneficial for their wellbeing.
“In other words, living with both parents does not mean instability for the children,” Turunen added. “It's just an adaptation to another housing situation, where regular relocation and good contact with both parents equals stability.”
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