There is growing recognition internationally that there is an important role for children in post-separation decision-making; though there is continuing controversy about how, when, and even whether this should be done. While there are legitimate concerns about children being “caught in the crossfire” of their parents’ conflicts, the reality is that if parents are unable to reach an agreement on parenting arrangements post separation, their children are inevitably involved.
The central argument that will be made is that if there is litigation between separated parents, children should be involved in the process, in a way that respects their needs, interests and wishes. If parents are making their own consensual plans for post-separation child-care, there is a need for appropriate explanations and consultation with children in making the initial plans. If parents are proceeding through the family justice system, there are a number of ways for children to have their “voices heard,” including having a mental health professional prepare a report about the results of interviews with the child, child legal representation, a parenting assessment, a letter
Is joint physical custody (JPC) linked to any better or worse outcomes for children than sole physical custody (SPC)? How are these outcomes affected by family income, parental conflict, and the quality of parent–child relationships? Compared to SPC children in 60 studies, JPC children had better outcomes on all measures in 34 studies, equal outcomes on some and better outcomes on other measures in 14 studies, equal out-comes on all measures in 6 studies, and worse outcomes on 1measure, but equal or better on all other measures in 6 studies. In 25 studies, independent of family income, JPC children had better outcomes on all measures in 18 studies, equal on some and better on other measures in 4 studies, equal outcomes in 1study, and worse outcomes on 1 but equal or better on other measures in 2 studies. In 19 studies, independent of parental conflict, JPC children had better outcomes on all measures in 9 studies, equal to better in 5 studies, equal in 2 studies, and worse outcomes on 1 but better outcomes on the other measures in 3 studies. In the 9 studies, independent of the quality of parent–child relationships, JPC children had better outcomes on all measures in 5 studies, equal or better outcomes on other measures in 2 studies, and worse outcomes on 1 of the measures in 2 studies. Independent of income, conflict, or the quality of children’s relationships with their parents, JPC generally children had better outcomes on most or on all measures.
1 Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, NORCE - Norwegian Research Centre
Background: The frequency of shared parenting families is on the rise in Norway, as in several Western societies. Shared parenting has also become more common among groups of less-educated parents with more conflicted arrangements. This presentation aims to present results from two empirical studies investigating physical- and mental health related outcomes among Norwegian adolescents in various family structures including shared custody, and to discuss implications for further research on the intersection between shared parenting and family violence.
Methods: Data stem from the youth@hordaland study, an epidemiological study of adolescents aged 16-19 years conducted in 2012 (N = 10,257). Detailed information regarding family structure, sibship-type, and socioeconomic status (SES), were provided by adolescent self-report. Mental health was measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and common health complaints among adolescents were assessed.
Results: Youth in shared custody displayed lower levels of mental health problems and reported fewer health complaints than peers in single-parent or stepparent families (standardized mean differences ranged from 0.1 – 0.3). Moreover, no statistically significant differences between youth in shared custody and peers in nuclear two-parent families were detected. Although the estimates attenuated, this pattern remained in fully adjusted analyses accounting for SES.
Conclusion: Shared custody is associated with fewer physical- and mental health-related problems than other post-separation arrangements. As shared custody becomes more frequent, differentiating between and evaluating the impact of interparental conflict and family violence becomes an important venue for continued research.
Public discussion on the social impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown, isolating people in their homes, has raised concerns regarding a potential increase in domestic tensions and violence. However, so far little empirical research exists on the topic. This paper takes a post-separation-specific perspective on the issue, focusing on parents with dual-residence children. Signs of increased tensions and conflicts under COVID-19 lockdown conditions in Finland were examined empirically in a case study. The data comprised posts by parents on a social media platform that capture naturally occurring parental reactions to the unexpected 2-month lockdown last spring. The analysis applied social reaction theory and co-creation processes of meaning. The results revealed that parents faced a difficult dilemma: 1) whether to focus on protecting one’s own and children’s health by isolating at home and refusing children to move between their two parental homes or 2) whether to stress the importance of continuity of shared parenthood and allowing children to move between their two homes. Some parents expressed overwhelming fear of coronavirus and how it had led to stress, tensions, and disputes in the family circle. Although violence was not explicitly described in the parents’ posts, it is possible that such tensions could fuel more serious disputes and custody conflicts between mothers and fathers. Interestingly, when searching the data for signs of increased tensions and disagreements, we also identified parents whose reaction was the opposite: the COVID-19 lockdown had enabled them to downshift and enjoy quality time at home. These parents emphasised the cooperativeness of their parental relationships and the extra spatial resources afforded by their dual residence arrangements. To conclude: if increased risk for violence related to custody conflicts due to COVID-19 is a concern in post-separation dual residence arrangements, it is important to learn to read its signs, while at the same time remembering the potential for resilience of many families.