February 23, 2018

Scientific Evidence Overwhelmingly Favors Shared Parenting Over Sole Custody Post-Divorce

The Journal of Child Custody recently published an update on child development research surrounding what’s best for kids when parents divorce or separate. In the update, Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest University professor of adolescent and educational psychology, analyzed 60 studies spanning multiple decades and numerous countries. She concluded that shared parenting is better for children than single parenting on almost every measure of wellbeing.

“This presents a major opportunity for improving children’s outcomes, given that the vast majority of children whose parents have separated or divorced grow up in the sole custody of one parent and rarely see the other,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization.

In the study, Nielsen wrote: “As the studies summarized in this article demonstrate, JPC (joint physical custody) is linked to better outcomes than SPC (sole physical custody) for children … ” She continued, “As researchers continue to explore the factors that might explain children’s better outcomes in JPC families, it is clear that shared parenting families are on the rise and that children are benefitting …”

The update was published in January and follows a 2014 analysis in which Nielsen analyzed 40 studies and also concluded shared parenting was in the best interest of children.

Dr. Holstein said: “It convincingly shows that shared parenting equals the best interest of the child for most children. With the scientific evidence now overwhelmingly showing children desperately need and want both parents after divorce or separation, our family courts must abandon their archaic practice of ordering sole custody.”

While shared parenting remains unusual in the United States, a trend in that direction has developed in recent years. It has been the usual arrangement for several years in Sweden, Belgium and Australia, and research there has shown much better outcomes for children. The Washington Post recently revealed that about half of the states in the U.S. have considered laws supportive of shared parenting in the past year. A handful of states have had similar laws for several years, and each year a couple more pass such laws, most recently in Missouri and Kentucky.

“It’s time for family court reform in every state. We can’t afford to allow our broken family court system to continue with the sole custody status quo – our children can’t be deprived of either parent any longer,” Dr. Holstein said.


Shared Parenting Data

Single Parenting Data

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.

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 bonds 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, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn