Study suggests benefits of shared parenting outweigh drawbacks for kids

Rather than creating extra stress, shared parenting arrangements may improve the physical and mental well-being of children after divorce.

For parents who are divorcing amicably, shared parenting may seem like the ideal way to promote strong relationships between both parents and their kids. However, some people in Alpharetta hesitate to pursue this arrangement because they worry that it will add upheaval and stress to their children's lives. Fortunately for parents who are interested in sharing child custody, one large-scale study suggests that this arrangement actually causes children the least amount of stress after divorce.

Emotional impacts of shared parenting

This study was conducted in Sweden, where researchers considered data from close to 150,000 students who were all in ninth or twelfth grade. According to Time magazine, the researchers did not directly ask the students about the amount of stress that they felt. Instead, the researchers used self-reported psychosomatic health problems, such as insomnia and headaches, to gauge how stressed the children were.

The researchers expected that, next to kids with married parents, children who lived with one parent would exhibit the least apparent stress. However, the children who lived part-time with both parents were actually significantly less stressed than those who lived with one parent.

Analyzing the study findings

The researchers believe these findings may indicate that routine contact with both parents offers benefits for children that outweigh any downsides of shared parenting. This arrangement affords children access to greater social connections and financial resources. Additionally, shared parenting promotes stronger relationships and more involved parenting. Still, as CBC News notes, the following variables that weren't controlled for could also have influenced the study findings:

• The socioeconomic standing of each parent

• The number of years since the divorce

• The level of conflict between the parents

This last variable could especially be important. The decision to engage in shared parenting may reflect a lower level of conflict between parents, which may result in less stress for their children. Families with sole custody arrangements, in contrast, may experience more conflict, which may cause children increased stress. Still, even if this is the case, the findings suggest that cooperative shared parenting, if it is feasible, may offer physical and emotional benefits for children.

Reaching the right arrangement

Here in Georgia, parents have the right to create their own custody and visitation arrangements by drafting parenting plans. State law distinguishes between legal custody, or decision-making authority, and physical custody. Parents may agree to share both types of custody equally or in any other manner that they deem appropriate. A family law court can then approve this agreement if it appears to be in the best interests of the child or children.

Determining child custody and visitation arrangements can introduce complex considerations and occasional disagreements, even among parents who are interested in cooperating with one another. Consequently, parents may want to consider using mediation services or seeking the assistance of a family law attorney when drawing up custody arrangements. This can help ensure that nothing is overlooked and increase the likelihood that parents will reach a favorable agreement.