Child adjustment in joint-custody versus sole-custody arrangements: a meta-analytic review

J Fam Psychol. 2002 Mar;16(1):91-102. doi: 10.1037//0893-3200.16.1.91.


The author meta-analyzed studies comparing child adjustment in joint physical or joint legal custody with sole-custody settings, including comparisons with paternal custody and intact families where possible. Children in joint physical or legal custody were better adjusted than children in sole-custody settings, but no different from those in intact families. More positive adjustment of joint-custody children held for separate comparisons of general adjustment, family relationships, self-esteem, emotional and behavioral adjustment, and divorce-specific adjustment. Joint-custody parents reported less current and past conflict than did sole-custody parents, but this did not explain the better adjustment of joint-custody children. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that joint custody can be advantageous for children in some cases, possibly by facilitating ongoing positive involvement with both parents.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Custody / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*