A recent study conducted by a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University emphasizes the benefits of shared custody for children of divorce. The study's author intended to determine to what extent less conflict and cooperative co-parenting benefits children. She found that having a quality relationship with each parent has the most positive effect on children and that children benefit from a quality relationship with each parent, even if the parents do not have a cooperative, co-parenting relationship.
The study, published in Psychology, Public Policy and Law, a journal of the American Psychological Association, supports the notion that while conflict matters, the quality of children's relationships with their parents matters more. The study's author believes that divorcing spouses should not assume that joint custody is not a viable option simply because they have a conflict-filled relationship. Rather, parents should keep the best interests of their children in mind by developing ways to strengthen the children's relationship with each parent and reduce their exposure to conflict.
She examined whether children who experience high legal conflict over custody disputes have worse outcomes than those who do not and whether children who live with each parent at least 35 percent of the time have better outcomes when parents have little conflict and work as a co-parenting team. She found that high conflict and poor parenting did not necessarily mean poor outcomes for children. The role of conflict tends to be exaggerated, she argues, and should not be the determining factor in child custody cases.
According to the study, a quality relationship with each parent led to more positive outcomes for children in terms of less drug use and teen pregnancies, better performance in school and more optimism for the future. The founder of the National Parents Organization notes that declaring one parent a winner and the other a loser in child custody cases increases conflict, whereas agreeing to a shared physical custody arrangement can actually diminish conflict between parents and have a positive effect on children.
Source: readingeagle.com, "New research supports shared custody for children in divorce," Gail Rosenblum, September 18, 2017