Research on the importance of shared parenting for the well-being of children after the divorce

Research on the importance of shared parenting for the well-being of children after the divorce

It is important to remember there is research on shared parenting that is worth looking at. This can provide a nuanced picture of how children are best allowed to thrive when father and mother (their parents) do not live together
The right divide of shared parenting is crucial for both children and adults, to land properly after the divorce. The following research from Sweden in 2016 is one of the largest studies, to date, done about the well-being of divorced children and the significance of shared parenting for the stability of children, both mentally and physically. 

Excerpt from the research on shared parenting and children’s well-being

We have taken excerpts from the report on shared parenting. The research deals with many topics, but we have made a brief summary of the results that deal with shared parenting.
The report also deals with high school aged children, as well as research from other Western countries.

Lack of research and empirical studies when it comes to divorce and childrens wellbeing

The report points out that the lack of empirical studies on well-being of small children in a shared parenting dynamic, has meant that interpretation of attachment theory is guiding the debate about whether children can live alternately with parents at an early age. Interpreting the attachment theory has also had implications for how counseling is provided to families, as well as to legislation and policy.

Internationally, the issue is also discussed in, for example, Norway, Australia, and the United States. Over the past 2 years, the international debate has matured. The researchers, who have held different positions on the matter in the past, have begun to approach each other mindset in new articles. The report, therefore, also highlights the need for further research in this area.

Categorization of shared parenting

In the report, shared parenting arrangements are divided into three categories; the children living in an equally divided arrangements, the children living majoritively with one parent, and children living with only one parent.

Stressful factors in divorced families

Children of divorce generally have an increased risk of emotional or social problems, as well as, lower well-being, compared to children from traditional nuclear family units.

This is explained by, among other things, less access to resources in the form of, for example, social security networks and finances, as well as, less support, closeness, and commitment from parents.

Children’s lower well-being after a divorce can also be related to the family characteritstic and dynamics, that has given rise to the divorce in the first place. Divorced parents, more often than not, have poorer finances, and possible mental health problems, than those living together and these problems may have occurred even before the divorce.
Prolonged conflicts between parents are a crucial factor in children’s well-being and health. 

Research on shared parenting for children 0-3 years

Despite the limited approach to empirical studies, researchers today claim that children can spend the night with one or the other parent during their first years.
It is emphasized that this is especially true for the 0-3 year old children, where the research is deficient. 

Research on shared parenting for children over six

There are significantly more studies of school-aged children in shared parenting agreements than with younger children. This is partly due to the fact that there are more children of divorce among older children, but also, that children over the age of 10 can answer questions themselves, which makes research less resource intensive. 

Swedish studies on children’s shared parenting

The types of living situations that are 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. 

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. 

Psychosomatic problems, such as headaches and insomnia, in children

Children in equal shared parenting arrangements had lower levels of psychosomatic problems than those who lived mostly with one, or only with one parent. Sleeping problems were the most common psychosomatic symptoms.
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.
When corrected for, among other things, the child’s relationship experience with their parents, the risk for psychosomatic problems in children aged 6 was lowered. For children aged 9, it was found that, when corrected for the same parental relationship experience, there was no significant difference between children in a nuclear family and those using an equally divided sharing arrangement, and psychosomatic problems.  

Other studies on childrens mental well-being after their parents divorce

In another study, based on almost 5,000 children, they measured psychological distress based on questions about whether the child felt nervous and tense, had difficulty sitting and concentration, was upset, angry, and irritated, and whether they experienced easy anger in themselves.

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

A study on cortisol (stress hormones) in the brains of young teens, showed that there was no difference between adolescents living in a nuclear family and adolescents in an equally divided living arrangement. The same was true with pain experience. This study did not test children with only one parent or those living with one parent. 

Among other things, the social living conditions of children living with just one parent are usually that they have less money for unforeseen expenses, compared to children in an equally divided living arrangement. Likewise, having to refrain from participation in activities with peers is directly related to finances.
Children in an equally divided living situation had the same financial conditions as children living in a nuclear family. 

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. 

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