Children who live with one of their parents full-time experience more stress than those who split their time between both.
Researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden have suggested that spending so much time away from one parent can lead children to worry about them. The child can also lose out on time with other relatives and even friends. All of these factors can contribute to higher levels of stress.
Although previous studies have shown the benefits of sharing time with both parents, this was the first to focus exclusively on stress.
Author Jani Turunen is a Demography researcher at Stockholm University. He explained that people should not mix up physical custody with legal custody when looking at these findings. Shared legal custody gives both parents equal rights to make decisions about their child’s upbringing such as where they go to school or what religious teaching they receive. By contrast, shared physical custody is when a child spends the same amount of time, or as close to it as possible, with each parent.
The data for this study was gathered from 807 children, who came from different living situations. They were asked a series of questions about how well they get on with each of their parents and how regularly they experienced stress. Their parents were also asked about how well they got on with their partner.
Interestingly, the advantages of shared physical custody were apparent even if the parents did not get along, Turunen found. He suggested this could be because the children have a more active relationship with both of them and previous research has indicated that this is an important factor in a child’s overall wellbeing.
The study was published in the academic Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.