Studies weigh in on sole versus joint custody for children

This article looks at the debate surrounding sole custody versus shared parenting.

One of the most difficult issues to resolve during a divorce is child custody. When parents get divorced emotions tend to run high and those emotions can affect not just each other but their children as well. There has been a long and ongoing debate about what child custody arrangement is best for children, with some suggesting a sole custody arrangement creates less stress while others argue that joint and shared custody arrangements decrease the chances of parental alienation. Below is a look at a few recent studies looking at how children performed on various behavioral and psychological tests in different custody situations.

Swedish studies provide insights

For insight into the issue many researchers have turned to Sweden as that country has a much higher rate of shared parenting than most other countries in the world. In many cases, the research has supported proponents of shared parenting. As Time reports, one Swedish study looked at data from 150,000 students who were either 12 or 15 years old for signs of psychosomatic problems such as headaches, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, tenseness, sadness, and so on. Of the children studied, 69 percent lived in nuclear families, 19 percent split their time between both parents, and 13 percent lived with just one parent.

The study found that children in nuclear families, perhaps unsurprisingly, had the fewest psychosomatic problems. What was more surprising was that children who split their time between both parents had fewer psychosomatic problems than those who lived with just one parent. As Science Daily reports, that result is backed up by a more recent study that looked specifically at stress in children and found that children who lived equal or near-equal times with both parents after a divorce tended to be less stressed than those who lived in a sole custody household.

Is sole custody always bad?

Those studies seem to go against many of the arguments for sole custody. Proponents of sole custody have typically argued that shuttling children between two households is too stressful for them. Proponents of shared parenting, however, say that ensuring that the child has a healthy relationship with each parent minimizes the stress that they may otherwise experience by splitting their time between households - a view that seems to be backed up by the above studies.

However, that is not to say that sole custody is always bad for children. In many cases it is in the best interests of the child to live with just one parent. This is especially true when the child's physical and emotional safety may be endangered by one parent, such as if that parent has a history of domestic or substance abuse.

Family law help

Resolving child custody disputes can be incredibly difficult. Anybody who is involved in such a dispute needs to contact a family la w attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can inform clients about what their parental rights are and how to go about pursuing a custody situation that is in both their and their child's best interests.