Shared custody for 0-3 years of age

Shared custody for 0-3 years of age

For the smallest of children being shared, attachment to the parents is an important focus in the choice of a shared parenting arrangement.

Shared parenting for 0-3 years of age

Affliction is a factor that comes into play when talking about studies in relation to the 0-3 year old age groups and shared parenting. The important connection that is established in the child’s first years is a fundamental foundation in the child’s development and decisive factor for continued healthy development. 

There are no unequivocal results in the research and affiliation that links the consequences of having more than one home in the 0-3 year old age groups.

Advice and legislation in this area is often assessed on the basis of the knowledge that it is related to the theory of attachment, without, however, necessarily relying on the exact knowledge, or significance, and its importance to shared parenting. 

Parental cooperation is crucial

If the results of the various studies are compared, however, it is unanimous that parental cooperation and responsiveness to the child’s needs plays the greatest role over the way parenting is shared. 

The 0-3 year olds in shared parenting arragnements

Children, aged 0-3, in multi-home living situations, are the most controversial age groups today. Very young children are particularly vulnerable to their surroundings, as they are completely left to the adults in their lives to care for them as caregivers. The young children also find it harder to express their needs or tell if they are not well, although they often can express indirect signs of dissatisfaction. 

Small children’s brains are developing and their limited cognitive abilities, time understand, and memory, make them especially dependent on predictability in their everyday lives. 

Predictability and continuity are also important for the child’s development of close relationships with the primary caregiver, most often the mother. 

The child’s attachment in the first years

Developing attachments to one’s primary caregiver is biologically based in all infants, as it ensures their survival. When the child misses their parents, or feels threatened, they will try to find closeness to someone, or another. However, when the child feels safe by the parents being there, they can explore and develop. 

In addition to making the child feel safe and secure, attachment also plays a role in the child’s ability to express and control emotions. The attachment is founded during the child’s first months of life, but the ability to form close, personal relationships are affected throughout human life. 

Parental responsiveness and emotional accessibility affect the quality of the child’s attachment. Most children, almost 70% in fact, have a safe connection with at least one of their parents. About 20% of children develop, instead, an unsafe relationship with one parent. Characteristic of ambivalence and insecure attachment are often demonstrated in the child as seeking parental support through crying or being “clingy”, where the parent finds it hard to reassure the child. Instead, children who respond by being dismissive of insecurity, avoid seeking protection, and develop other strategies to find their own safety. 

If the child is constantly cared for by several different people, they can develop several parallel attachment relationships already during their first year of life. Often a “hierarchy” is created between the parents, and the child becomes “mother-sick” or “father-sick” for a period of time. 

When parents encourage and support the child’s relationships with one another, the prerequisite for the relationship to develop is secure and flexible. This reciprocity has also proved significant in the child’s emotional and social development over time. 

Shared parenting of very young children after divorce – what is right?

The fact that very young children have a greater need for predictability and continuity, has meant that shared parenting arrangements, with overnight accommodations including both parents, has been viewed with skepticism. 

As a rule, the mother’s importance to the child has been emphasized, and the stability of one home with a permanent primary caregiver, has been considered the best prerequisite for the healthy development of the child. Protecting the child from prolonged separations from the primary caregiver, most often the mother, has been considered more important than establishing affiliation with the other parent, most often the father, from an earlier divorce. It has been thought that early separation from the mother, by virtue of her role as primary caregiver, can cause fragile attachment to both parents, rather than receiving 2 high-quality parenting relationships. 

However, other theories point out that children naturally have more associates as primary caregivers, and that this is natural. Few children are cared for by only one primary caregiver during the first year, as most parents share their parenting duties with a partner. In addition, it is common in several countries that children are looked after in institutions or by nannies. Some studies even point to the fact that this can be beneficial for social development. 

Yet, it has often been considered to be potentially harmful with overnight stays in both homes for young children, as the child’s need for a safe base is considered greatest when the child is vulnerable and tired. If the child does not have access to the primary caregiver, this can have negative consequences. However, if the child has developed a relationship with both parents, overnight accommodations is a prerequisite for strengthening the relationship. The importance of the father’s (or the non-primary caregiver’s) commitment to the child’s well-being is well documented, for both parents who live together and separately. 

In school aged children, shared parenting arrangements have been shown to promote the child’s relationship with the father (or non-primary caregiver) and reduce the risk of him (them) disappearing from the child’s life. 

Studies on the consequences of accommodations outside the 0-3 year old age group

The Swedish study ‘Børn i deleordninger – en forskningsoversigt‘ (“Children in shared parenting arrangements – a research overview”) however, also emphasizes, first and foremost, that there is a lack of empirical knowledge and concrete results regarding shared parenting arrangements for the very young. 

Five studies that examine the quality of the child’s attachment to the mother (or primary caregiver) discuss, based on the results, a possible connection between uncertain and disoriented attachment and overnight stays with the father (or non-primary caregiver) for the first 2 years of the child’s life. 

The overall picture of the studies shows that no gains or negative consequences can be proven by the child staying with the other parent (non-primary caregiver) during the first 3 years of the child’s life. 

Instead, the studies show that factors such as collaboration, responsiveness, and level of conflict play a greater role in the child’s psychological well-being.

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