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Study Suggests Joint Custody Is Less Stressful for Children

Children walking uo drivewayChildren whose divorced or separated parents share physical custody are less likely to feel stressed than children who live with just one parent, according to a study published in the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage.

Parents may worry that moving back and forth between homes will be stressful to children, or that being separated from one parent while visiting another will be traumatic. But previous research has found long separations from one parent are likely to cause anxiety.

Other studies have found shared custody may also be better for parents. A 2014 Dutch study found both parents are more likely to be happy in joint custody arrangements.

Is Shared Custody Better for Kids?

The study gathered data on 807 children in Sweden, where shared physical custody is most prevalent. Researchers combined data from the 2001-2003 Surveys of Living Conditions with registry data. Children answered questions about their experiences of stress and how well they got along with each parent. Parents answered questions about how well they got along with their former partner.

Children who lived with only one parent reported more weekly experiences of stress than those in shared custody arrangements. Even when parents had a poor relationship with each other or when children had a poor relationship with both parents, children in shared custody situations generally experienced less stress.

Effects of Shared Custody Arrangements

Jani Turunen, the study’s author and a researcher in demography at Stockholm University, says the study points to the importance of a relationship with both parents. While the study did not directly assess why children in shared custody arrangements are less stressed, previous research has found children benefit from regular contact with both parents.

Contrary to what some parents might fear, transitioning back and forth between houses does not automatically create instability. Instead, it can preserve multiple social support systems and protect the child’s relationship with both parents.

According to a 2014 study of Wisconsin court records, shared custody is still relatively uncommon in the United States, but it is becoming more prevalent. Between 1986 and 2008, equal shared custody arrangements increased from 5% to 27% of post-divorce parenting arrangements.


  1. Franklin, R. (2016, January 31). Dutch/Danish study: Both parents happier with shared parenting. Retrieved from
  2. Shared custody equals less stress for children. (2017, August 30). Retrieved from
  3. Shared custody is becoming the norm. (2014, May 21). Retrieved from
  4. Turunen, J. (2017). Shared physical custody and children’s experience of stress. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(5), 371-392. doi:10.1080/10502556.2017.1325648

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  • Thom

    September 7th, 2017 at 10:35 AM

    My parents had us move back and forth every single year.
    One school year I would live with my mom and then the next my dad.
    And I had to change schools each time. That was a nightmare.

  • Shannon

    September 7th, 2017 at 2:14 PM

    Children can sense when their parents have their best interest at heart. It might not be the choice that the parent wants but you do what is going to be the best for the children.
    In most instances I would say that what is the best for them is to have equal time with each parent. Joint custody gives both parents a chance to bond with their children and to form their own little family dynamic.
    No parent or child relationship should ever be deprived of having that chance to connect.

  • Gábor

    August 5th, 2023 at 2:24 AM

    You are trying to rationalize a selfish decision. Children are children.

  • Debra

    September 9th, 2017 at 8:11 AM

    Of course it is less stressful for the children!

    What nut job would ever think that taking a parent away from a child would be a good thing unless that parent truly meant to cause the child harm?

  • michael

    November 29th, 2017 at 10:35 PM

    My ex-wife managed to take my two children (6&7) away from me, their father (living in Cape Town), to live with her third dope-smoking husband in Botswana! As a sociopath she sees no wrong in that. In fact she wrote to me saying “the children will have a father, it’s just not you!”

  • Jack L

    September 12th, 2017 at 2:13 PM

    Luckily we all get along pretty well and not just for the kids. We are all adults and choose to behave that way.

    It’s the parents who use the children as pawns in their own silly arguments and interactions are the ones who cause the most turmoil for families.

    My ex wife and I choose to handle things in a calm and responsible manner that shows our children that everything that we do we do with their best interest in mind.

  • shanay

    October 26th, 2017 at 6:08 PM

    So what if two parents are doing week on-week off arrangement, But on dads week he has different rules and different bed time, Doesn’t stay on top of home work and fails to even open the child’s folder that is brought home everyday containing important letters, home work,good/bad notes. Also, difficult to communicate with about these issues regarding school work etc. and always has to be reminded to do home work with the child and reminded of upcoming events. When my child is with her father he’s short with me when I want to discuss her school work and he plays it off like everything is going good. Then when i get her back i find notes in her folder about bad behavior/late for class/tired in class/unfinished home work/bad test scores!
    I feel as though my child would do better if she was in my home during school weeks. With consistency, routine, and responsibility of staying on top of everything! Someone please give me advice on what i should do about this. This has been going on from head start – First grade

  • Gábor

    August 5th, 2023 at 2:23 AM

    Shared custody means the child feels nobody to none, not knowing where (s)he belongs to, the constant moving creates disorganization. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, at all.

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