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Kids   »   Do You Know What Researchers Say About Shared Custody?

Do You Know What Researchers Say About Shared Custody?

For many children in Sweden, shared custody is the norm when parents are separated. However, some children live more with one parent and see their other parent less frequently. Researchers have tried to understand how different living arrangements affect children’s well-being. In this article, we discuss what researchers have found.

Many children thrive best when they live with both parents equally

Living equally with both parents, known as shared custody, is the living arrangement that benefits most children. The reason is that children can share their entire lives with both parents, including everyday activities like soccer practice, homework, and Friday movie nights, as well as holidays like birthdays, Christmas Eve, and other fun events.

Forty years ago, almost all children lived solely with their mothers after a divorce. Most fathers only saw their children every other weekend. For children, this meant essentially “losing” their father if their parents divorced. This rarely turned out well for children. Even if parents are wise and kind, children need to have them in their lives as much as possible. It’s good that children today often have closer contact with both parents, even if it’s not always a 50/50 split.

However, some children may fare better living with one parent and seeing their other parent in other ways. This could be because the parent lives far away from the child. It could also be because the parent is not doing well themselves and struggles to take care of their child. In such cases, it’s good to have other adults who can take care of the child and ensure they are well cared for.

Living in Two Places

Sure, it can be tricky living in two places sometimes, with belongings at one parent’s house while you’re at the other’s. But most children still seem to think it’s better to move their things than to see a parent less often.

Researchers have observed that it’s important for children that adults can cooperate reasonably about them and help each other out without major fights. It’s also important that the plan for the children’s living arrangements is stable and doesn’t change too much. When this happens, children and parents usually settle into a good rhythm where everyone knows what’s what. If there is a need to change living arrangements, it’s good to be willing to try and give the new arrangement some time to settle in.

Children Are Different and Have Different Needs

It’s important to know that research on children’s needs and experiences is done at a group level. This means that most children thrive with shared custody, but there are also children who cannot or do not want shared custody. Children are unique, just like adults. And some children don’t enjoy living in two homes.

How to Talk to Parents About Different Living Arrangements

It’s important that you, as a child, feel comfortable talking to your parents if you feel that your living situation isn’t working well for you. Maybe you want to start living equally with both your parents? Or conversely, maybe you want to cut back a bit and spend a few more days with one parent and Thursday to Sunday with the other?

Here, parents need to be open to your suggestions and listen to your thoughts. It’s not guaranteed that parents can or want to do as you wish (it might not work with their jobs or other circumstances). But it’s important that they really listen to you and understand how you feel, and that you get to express your opinions.

Elisabeth Scholander