Joint Physical Custody Better For Children’s Psychological Health Interview with:

Malin Bergström PhD Center for Health Equity Studies  Karolinska Institutet  

Dr. Bergstrom

Malin Bergström PhD
Center for Health Equity Studies
Karolinska Institutet What is the background for this study?

Response: The increase in children who move between their parent’s homes after a divorce is one of the major changes in children’s life circumstances during the last decade. Spending equal amounts of time in both parents’ homes means that these children move fifty times a year. Child experts have claimed this to be stressful and potentially harmful to children’s attachment relations to their mothers. Especially for children this young the practice of joint physical custody has been questioned. What are the main findings?

Response: Three and five year old children who lived in an equal shared parenting arrangement showed less psychological problems than those living mostly or only with one parent, according to their parents’ and preschool teachers’ assessments on SDQ.  The SDQ includes sub scales on emotional problems, hyperactivity, conduct problems and peer relations. In parental reports, children in  joint physical custody and those in intact families had similar outcomes, while teachers reported lower unadjusted symptom scores for children in intact families. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: That close everyday parenting from both parents seems to be more important for children’s wellbeing than living in one home. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We need studies on even younger children-what type of living arrangements are suitable for 0-2 year olds with non cohabiting parents? There is also a need for longitudinal studies that include pre separation characteristics of the family, parents and the child. This is important to understand how the selection of families into different living arrangements affects the outcomes. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Citation: Malin Bergström, Emma Fransson, Helena Fabian, Anders Hjern, Anna Sarkadi, Raziye Salari. Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent. Acta Paediatrica, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/apa.14004

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 22, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD