Preschool Children Living in Joint Physical Custody Arrangements Show Less Psychological Symptoms Than Those Living Mostly or Only With One Parent

Acta Paediatr. 2018 Feb;107(2):294-300. doi: 10.1111/apa.14004. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

Abstract

Aim: Joint physical custody (JPC), where children spend about equal time in both parent's homes after parental separation, is increasing. The suitability of this practice for preschool children, with a need for predictability and continuity, has been questioned.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we used data on 3656 Swedish children aged three to five years living in intact families, JPC, mostly with one parent or single care. Linear regression analyses were conducted with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, completed by parents and preschool teachers, as the outcome measure.

Results: Children in JPC showed less psychological problems than those living mostly (adjusted B 1.81; 95% CI [0.66 to 2.95]) or only with one parent (adjusted B 1.94; 95% CI [0.75 to 3.13]), in parental reports. In preschool teacher reports, the adjusted Betas were 1.27, 95% CI [0.14 to 2.40] and 1.41, 95% CI [0.24 to 2.58], respectively. In parental reports, children in JPC and those in intact families had similar outcomes, while teachers reported lower unadjusted symptom scores for children in intact families.

Conclusion: Joint physical custody arrangements were not associated with more psychological symptoms in children aged 3-5, but longitudinal studies are needed to account for potential preseparation differences.

Keywords: Children; Divorce; Joint physical custody; Parental separation; Psychological problems.

MeSH terms

  • Child Custody*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Psychology, Child*
  • School Teachers
  • Surveys and Questionnaires