Parents in Texas who are divorcing or who have never been married and must negotiate child custody may be interested in the results of a study from Sweden. According to the researchers, children whose parents do not live together may be more stable when they split their time between the households of both parents than when they spend most of their time with only one parent.
The study examined nearly 150,000 children who were either 12 or 15 years old along with reports of their psychosomatic symptoms and emotional disturbances such as headaches, dizziness, and sadness. It found sleep problems were the most reported symptoms and that girls were more likely to report issues than boys. It also found that children whose parents had joint physical custody had fewer issues than children who lived with only one parent. Children in nuclear families had the fewest symptoms.
While in Sweden the incidence of joint physical custody has risen from 1 percent to 40 percent since the 1980s, it remains about half that much in the United States. It is often believed that regularly moving between households is damaging to children, but the Swedish study suggests this is not the case. Experts say that children may have the opportunity to bond more effectively with parents when they see them regularly.
Parents concerned about their children’s best interests may want to keep this study in mind as they negotiate child custody. Depending on the child’s age, they may also want to see what the child’s wishes are. As long as there are no issues with neglect or abuse, the child might benefit from joint physical custody. An attorney may be able to work with clients during negotiation, mediation, or litigation to come to an arrangement that satisfies everyone involved.