Every year, 1.5 million Every year, 1.5 million

Joint Custody Is Better for Kids’ Health, Study Suggests

kid sitting outside houseEvery year, 1.5 million children are forced to grapple with the challenges of divorcing parents. For many of these children, divorce means an ugly custody battle that may end with dramatically reduced time with one parent. For divorcing parents, child custody is sometimes a way to exact revenge on a former spouse. Some truly believe that eliminating the other parent from their child’s life is in the child’s best interests, but a large Swedish study suggests otherwise, pointing to the health and wellness benefits of joint custody.

Joint Custody and Children’s Health

Researchers pulled data from a classroom survey of nearly 150,000 12- and 15-year-old Swedish children. They compared children who spent all or most of their time with one parent to children who spent equal periods of time with each parent by providing questionnaires about common health issues such as headaches, insomnia, and appetite changes.

Researchers found that divorce was bad for all children’s health, but children in joint custody arrangements reported slightly fewer mental and physical wellness issues. Interestingly, the time a child spent with his or her parents was directly correlated with overall health. Children who spent time with only one parent had the worst health, with slight improvements in health among children who spent some time with the other parent. Health got progressively better as families moved toward joint custody.

Sleep difficulties were the most commonly cited issue, with 22% of children who lived with only one parent struggling with sleep, compared to 14% of children in joint custody arrangements and 13% of kids in nuclear families. Headaches were also common, with 12% of children in nuclear families experiencing head pain “often” or “always.” Among children who lived with one parent, the figure rose to 19%, compared to 12% among children in joint custody arrangements.

Why Does Joint Custody Affect Health?

An avalanche of studies support the claim that, in general, children do better when both parents are involved in their lives, but this research supports the benefits of equal levels of involvement. Though the study did not directly explore why joint custody is better for children’s health, its authors suggest that psychosomatic health symptoms frequently result from stress. Ready access to a reliable parent may help reduce stress, even when joint custody requires more bouncing back and forth between houses.


  1. Arkowitz, H., & Lilienfeld, S. (2013, February 14). Is divorce bad for children? Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-divorce-bad-for-children/
  2. Children’s health ‘worse’ if staying with one parent – ‘better’ if custody shared. (2015, April 28). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/292992.php

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  • Luis

    April 29th, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Who would possibly think that the elimination of a parent from the life of a child would be a good thing? I can see that only being good ion maybe cases of abuse but even then you would have to hope that there could be some rehabilitation efforts on the part of the adult and an effort to reestablish a healthy relationship with the child again at some point in the future. Look at all of the kids who do not come from a two parent home and you can easily see that they are at a major disadvantage to the kids who come from stable two parent homes. Even if this is not the case then it has to be better to maintain a relationship with both parents instead of cutting someone that they love totally out of their lives.

  • Lillian

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Given the chance I think that most kids would agree that when their parents can work out an arrangement that makes the kids feel more safe and secure, then this leads to better overall health and wellness in the whole family.

  • Oscar

    April 30th, 2015 at 2:54 PM

    My ex wife will rarely let me see the kids even though we have a court order that states just how often I should be able to. She says that they don’t want to be with me because in all honesty is probably true because she has spent so much time filling their minds with hatred against me. I sort of feel like I have lost them for good, and that saddens me more than you could know but I guess that this is her form of revenge against me. I don’t really have the money left to fight her in court over it so I feel like my hands are tied.

  • Johnna

    May 4th, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    Oscar I feel so bad for you because you are being denied a right that should never have to be fought.
    You shouldn’t have to beg and plead or even go to court to be able to see your kids.
    If you are a good dad and try to be with them then one day they are going to be able to see this and they will make the move on their own to seek you out.
    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Cierra

    May 6th, 2015 at 2:57 PM

    This has to be more than the every other weekend kind of deal.
    I think that sometimes this hurts kids more than it helps them because they feel like it is all just a big back and forth, or that the parent who gets to spend less time with them actually wants to be around them less than they are given the chance to be.

  • Angela

    May 20th, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    My divorce is almost final and my daughter’s Dad says he will not be a “part time” Dad. Either we get back together or he is out of her life for good. It makes me so sad that my daughter will not have a relationship with him. He is using her to try to get me back. I wish he would just accept the divorce and be a Dad.

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