September 18, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Our good friend Malin Bergstrom of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute at Uppsala University is set to publish another study finding that children in shared parenting arrangements have better outcomes than those in sole or primary care and, from parents’ perspectives, kids’ outcomes in shared care are indistinguishable from those in intact families. Here’s a brief article on her new work (Daily Mail, 9/5/17).
Bergstrom’s study looked at “emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention and peer-relationship problems.” It did so by dividing up almost 3700 children into those in sole parent homes, intact families and homes with shared parenting. Researchers then asked parents and teachers to fill out questionnaires on various behavioral issues of the kids.
Children have less behavioural problems and psychological symptoms after their parents separate if they do not live with just their mother or father, a study found.
From a parents' perspective, there is no difference in symptoms between youngsters growing up in a traditional family living arrangement and those whose mother and father share custody, the research adds.
Study author Dr Malin Bergström from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told MailOnline: 'It is beneficial for children to have everyday contact with their parents. Parental quality often improves if they see their children often rather than just on the weekends.
'It may be more important to have parental quality than a stable home where a child is living with both their mother and father.'
Obviously, this study standing alone proves little, but read in the context of some 54 other studies of shared parenting and children’s outcomes, all of which find shared parenting to be the most beneficial arrangement for kids following divorce and conferring benefits on parents as well, it adds still more persuasive weight.
Dr Bergström told MailOnline: 'It is beneficial for children to have everyday contact with their parents. Parental quality often improves if they see their children often rather than just on the weekends.
We shouldn’t need a study to teach us Bergstrom’s second point. Of course parental quality improves if a parent sees his/her children often. We’re well aware that fathers who only have every-other-weekend contact with their children tend to become “Disneyland Dads,” i.e. more entertainers than parents. Under those circumstances, it is close to impossible to be a good parent. The every fortnight parent knows little about his kids’ everyday lives, traumas, challenges, achievements, etc. If he makes demands on his children’s behavior, he’s in no position to see if they’re carried out. He loses authority and he and the children know it. Put simply, such little contact not only isn’t parenting, it can’t be. Parenting involves a long-term relationship with a child. Four days per month isn’t enough to maintain that relationship.
So, if a parent has two weeks per month with his child instead of four days, then he’s in a position to maintain that relationship and monitor his child’s behavior. Unsurprisingly, his parental abilities and dedication are greater when he sees his value to his child often and regularly.
'Parents shouldn’t hesitate to decide on this practice if they feel it will be good for their family. Children may find it stressful to lose contact with someone who is important to them.
The latter of course is why divorce is so traumatic for kids. Losing that relationship to one parent is devastating to their sense of self and worth. The scars often last well into adulthood and some never heal.
Bergstrom’s work is yet another blow to business as usual in family courts.
Well done Malin. Keep up the good work.
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