Research on 50/50 shared parenting agreements

Research on 50/50 shared parenting agreements

Research on the connection between children, shared parenting, and the importance of being together for the child’s well-being are increasingly becoming more elucidated. The popular sharing scheme, 50/50, has been deferred, to mostly take into account the parents

This is a difficult area to expand on, as it is not unequivocally about shared parenting, but also, to a greater extent, about parental cooperation when it comes to the well-being of the child. 

If we look at the latest research on shared parenting agreements, the arrow points to increased well-being in the sharing scheme, as well as better relationships with both parents, rather than just one. 

Swedish studies on children’s shared parenting

A major research project from Sweden in 2016 has worked purposefully to investigate the consequences of the various custody schemes, or shared parenting arrangements, for the well-being of children and their relationship with their parents. 

The types of living situations that were compared in the Swedish study are: children in a nuclear family unit, shared parenting arrangement where the children live equally with both parents, arrangements with time spent mostly with one parent over the other, and children living with only one parent. 

The study was corrected for social factors, such as the proportion of foreign parents and parents’ educational level.

The study was based on the child’s psychological well-being, in relation to the shared parenting and living arrangements.

The study related to 4 dimensions of mental well-being in relation to how the child lived – mood, mental well-being, self-esteem and autonomy.

Children in a nuclear family unit indicated greater well-being in all 4 categories, compared to children in which parents lived separately. 

Children in a shared parenting arrangement, with equally divided time between both parents, were those who were most satisfied, compared to children living mostly with one parent over the other, or only one parent. 

Psychosomatic problems, such as headaches and insomnia, in children

Children in equal shared parenting arrangements, for example a 50/50 sharing scheme, had lower levels of psychosomatic problems than those who lived mostly with one, or only with one parent. 

Of children who lived with just one parent, 22% suffered more, or more often, from sleep problems. Of those who lived mostly with one parent over the other, 19% suffered from sleep problems, while 14% of children in an evenly divided arrangement, and up to 13% of those in a nuclear family, suffered from sleep problems. 

Second most common issue was recurring headaches. Here, 19% of children living with only one parent are reported to suffer from headaches. Of those who lived mostly with one parent over the other, 17% suffered from them, while those in equally divided living arrangements account for 14% and up to 12% of children in a nuclear family.

The researchers also found that the amount of resources was related to these problems.

The child’s experience with parental relationship

In a study of children between 6-9 years of age, those living in a nuclear family were found to have the best parental relationship. Of children from divorced families, the children who lived in an equally divided living situation had the best experience with parental relationships, compared to those living with only one, or mostly with one parent. 

The child’s access to financial resources, and the child’s satisfaction with the relationship with their parents, were found to be significant for their mental well-being. When adjusting for those two factors, finances and parental relationship, in the analysis, there was no longer any overrepresentation of psychological dissatisfaction between children in equally divided shared parenting arrangements and those in a nuclear family unit. 

Same risks of mental health problems in children in a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement and those in a nuclear family

Another study examined self-esteem based on three questions about satisfaction with oneself, one’s appearance and whether one thinks positively about the future and themselves in it. 

The results showed that mental health problems were just as prevalent in children living in nuclear families, as in children in an equally divided living situation.

Children who lived with only one parent, or mostly with one parent, had more symptoms, as well as, lower self-esteem

The debate on shared parenting is often characterized by personal opinions and not by knowledge or research  

Debates are often fueled by attitude and not substance. In many debates, this is not a problem, but in matters of the well-being of children, families’ way of arranging 2 homes, and parents’ cooperation, we will have to demand that the media and professionals draw on the latest knowledge and research, rather than opinions. 

We cannot count on the fact that many might have knowledge, for example, of the neighbor’s daughter, or an attitude of “I think…”as good enough reasons to take a stand on such important issues, such as shared parenting. Thinking one knows something based on the person experiences of others, or the personal beliefs of oneself, is not enough of a reason to dismiss research of shared custody. 

Often, the Danish debate on divorce and shared parenting is characterized by attitudes and values, more than it is characterized by facts and research. For now, it is a popular argument to talk about the 50/50 custody scheme as “selfish parents who think of their own needs over that of their children.”

The experts are often psychologists, who do not really relate to specific knowledge about children in shared parenting agreements, and the importance of the different custody arrangements. Instead, it becomes views and hypotheses, based on psychological knowledge of children, and it is presented as facts, despite the lack of specific understanding in the area and the significance of the various custody arrangements. 

To put it mildly, it’s a huge problem in the debate on children’s well-being. The debate becomes overly sensitive and colored very quickly, as many have an interest in finding the facts that best fit their own context. There is simply a need for more research in this area, so that we can start talking about elaborate and analyzed knowledge, rather than where the wind takes us in a debate with many different interests and variables. 

This lack of knowledge is precisely highlighted in the research report, which distorts the debate

In the elaborated research report, the lack of empiricism and research in the field are interpreted as a problem when we have to advise and legislate in this area. The alleged knowledge is often based on interpretations, and the report mentions that attachment theory is guiding the debate about whether children can live alternately with parents at an early age. Attachment theory is also used in relation to how counseling ti provided to families, in regards to legislation and policy. 

The report also highlights that the lack of clear knowledge in this area means that there is still no concrete answer to how shared parenting affect children. There are also factors, such as parental cooperation and access to resources, that may have an impact on the custody arrangements, and the background for which each newly divorced pair chooses their own sharing scheme. 

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