December 20, 2017
HOLIDAY SEASON CAN BE SAD FOR MANY CHILDREN
Washington Post Reports on Nationwide Reform Supportive of Shared Parenting After Divorce
Despite national headlines supporting shared parenting as the best arrangement for children whose parents are apart, it remains unusual following divorce or separation. As a result, National Parents Organization emphasizes that the holidays can be heartbreaking for children.
“The holiday season can be magical for children. Sadly, it can also be crushing for them when they are forbidden to see one of the parents they love because of family court decisions that give sole custody to the other parent,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization. “For most such children, the best Christmas present they could possibly have would be a simple change in the custody law from a preference for sole custody to a preference for shared custody. Nothing would light up their eyes more brightly than having lots of time with both mom and dad.”
As The Washington Post’s recent front-page article headlined “More than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to promote shared custody of children after divorce” revealed, about half our state legislatures this year have considered bills supportive of shared parenting. As the Post noted, “Many of the legislative gains recently have been propelled by the National Parents Organization…”
Support of shared parenting is inspired by the scientific evidence showing children do best with shared parenting when their parents divorce or separate.
“A meta-analysis of research on the effects of shared parenting on children in 15 countries also showed benefits across a range of emotional, behavioral and physical health measures,” The Post reported.
“My wish for families this time of year is that the Christmas season should be filled with the joy of family and togetherness,” Dr. Holstein said. “And for families experiencing the pain of fragmentation, we can build a country in which no child has to spend her holiday sadly remembering last year, before her parents split up, when she was able to see them both. Together, we can make shared parenting the norm, and in turn, make the holidays brighter for millions of children.”
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
- In September 2017, Acta Paediatrica, a peer-reviewed medical journal in the field of pediatrics, published a paper by Swedish Malin Bergstrom of the Karolinska Institute titled “Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent” – it concluded the mental health of children ages three to five with shared parenting is better on average than the mental health of those in the care of a single parent.
- The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
- In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers."
- Professor Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University summarized a paper of hers that is about to be published as follows: “In 42 of the 51 studies, children who lived in shared physical custody families had better outcomes than children who lived in sole physical custody families. In 4 of the 51 studies the outcomes were mixed, meaning that children in shared physical custody did better on some outcomes and worse on others. In 5 of the 51 studies, the children did equally well in both types of families. It is important to note that, in the studies that considered family income and parental conflict before comparing the children’s outcomes, children in the shared physical custody families still had better outcomes.”
- The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
- The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
- In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.
According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
- 63% of teen suicides;
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
- 71% of high school drop-outs;
- 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
- 85% of those in prison;
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
- 90% of homeless and runaway children.
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
A regular contributor to local and national media, Dr. Holstein is Founder and Chair of the Board of National Parents Organization. Dr. Holstein was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, and he was previously appointed by a Massachusetts Chief Justice to a task force charged with reviewing and revising the state’s child support guidelines.
A graduate of Harvard College, Holstein also earned a Master’s degree in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His medical degree is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he later served on the faculty as a teacher and researcher.
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org