Study says joint custody benefits children

When a couple approaches divorce, it would be wise to decide on joint custody for the children, a new study contends. Children in joint custody tend to have fewer behavioural and emotional problems than those assigned to just one parent, according to a report in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Here are a few highlights of the research:

  • Children in joint custody are said to have higher self-esteem, better family relations and better school performance than those in sole custody (usually by the mother).

  • Although those in sole custody are not necessarily maladjusted, they tend not to do as well on average.

  • Keeping fathers in the loop seems to help children adjust, researchers say.

  • Psychologist Robert Bauserman of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene examined 33 studies that looked at 1,846 sole-custody and 814 joint-custody children as well as children in 251 intact families to come to his conclusions.

    Sole-custody parents seem to continue high levels of conflict over parenting decisions, while joint-custody parents appear to be more capable of parenting together with less emotional conflict, he found.

    The findings contradict experts who believe joint custody disrupts the stability of a child's life shifting back and forth between parents.

    Source: Karen S. Peterson, Joint Custody Best for Kids After Divorce, Study Says, USA Today, March 25, 2002; based on Robert Bauserman, Child Adjustment in Joint-Custody Versus Sole-Custody Arrangements: A Meta-Analytic Review, Journal of Family Psychology, 2002, Vol. 16, No. 1, American Psychological Association.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin\9 April 2002
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