Children who spend equal time with both parents following divorce or separation have better mental health than other children, a new study suggests.
A team of researchers examined data relating to 3656 Swedish children between the ages of three and five years. Some were living with both their parents in an intact family; some in shared care arrangements; and others (the majority) with single parents – perhaps seeing their other parent occasionally.
They concluded that youngsters who spent equal time with both parents in intact families or shared care arrangements were less likely to develop psychological problems than their peers living with single parents – in spite of previous concerns that moving from household to household in a shared care arrangement could affect children’s mental health. They were a number of possible reasons for this link, the team suggested.
“Possibly, the child’s access to two involved parents may instead be more important for children’s psychological well-being than the problems associated with moving between homes. Having an involved father has been shown, in numerous studies, to be especially important for children’s mental health and development.”
Another possibility, they said, was a reduction in family stress because the other parent was present and sharing the load.
“… both parents might experience less parenting stress by being able to better balance work and parenting duties and recuperate, due to being child-free every other week. Less stress along with more designated child time could lead to better parenting practices and more engagement in activities with the child, promoting the child’s development and well-being.”
The study appeared in the academic journal Acta Paediatrica.