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Are joint custody arrangements less stressful for kids?

Earlier this week, a group of Swedish researchers published the results of a groundbreaking study that has many family experts and legal professionals buzzing about its potential implications for child custody arrangements here in the U.S.

That's because the study, published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, calls into question whether the traditional legal arrangement whereby one divorced parent is awarded primary custody and the another is awarded visitation is the best for a child.

What did the study examine?

The researchers examined the extent to which a group of 150,000 children between the ages of 12-15 suffered certain stress-related or psychosomatic conditions, such as difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, headaches, depression, anxiety, etc.

Of these 150,000 children, 69 percent lived with both parents, 13 percent lived with one parent and 19 percent divided their time living with both parents (i.e., joint custody arrangements).

What did they find?

It came as no surprise to the researchers that the children living in the traditional two-parent homes had the lowest rates of stress-related conditions. What was a surprise, however, was that the children living with only one parent had much higher rates of stress-related conditions than their counterparts who divided their time living with both parents.

Did the researchers have any theories as to why the rates were lower among those children living in joint custody arrangements?

The primary theory advanced was that splitting time between two houses means both parents remain actively engaged in their children's lives and ensures that access to resources (family members, friends, etc.) is as expansive as possible.

Will this influence custody arrangements in the U.S.?

It's possible, but there is still a long way to go considering that statistics show less than 20 percent of the children of divorce here in the U.S. currently live in joint custody arrangements.

What are your thoughts on this study?

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