The impact of divorce on children of all ages is a concern of parents, family law attorneys, psychologists and courts as divorcing couples seek to work out custody arrangements. A new study provides some evidence that preteens and young teens whose parents have joint custody arrangements fare better emotionally and physically than those who live primarily with one parent.
In the study, which was published late last month in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers looked at a variety of symptoms experienced by almost 150,000 young people in Sweden between 12 and 15 years old. These included physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches and dizziness. They also included things like loss of appetite, problems sleeping and concentrating, sadness and tension. These are all symptoms that may be psychosomatic — physical manifestations of stress or some form of mental distress.
The researchers looked at the family structure of the youngsters. They found that kids who lived at home with both parents had the fewest “psychosomatic” symptoms. Among those children whose parents were not together, the ones whose parents had joint custody displayed fewer symptoms than whose who spent all or the majority of time living with one parent.
Certainly, being regularly shuttled between two separate homes to spend time with both parents can be stressful for kids. However, the study concluded that being able to maintain a close relationship with each of those parents can reduce that stress.
Obviously, every family dynamic is different. There are certainly situations in which children, particularly young ones, are better off living with one parent. Sometimes, because of distance or other factors, that living arrangement is necessary. However, parents are increasingly working out joint custody arrangements so that they can both continue to be part of their children’s lives. This study seems to indicate that these joint custody arrangements are generally healthier for children, at least as they move into the teen years.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, “Divorce May Increase Psychosomatic Symptoms in Teens: Study,” Robert Preidt, HealthDay, April. 28, 2015