For many parents who have recently gotten divorced or are thinking about filing for divorce in the New Year, the prospect of shared parenting can produce anxiety and frustration. While some parents get along with one another throughout the divorce proceedings and continue to work together amicably afterward, this is not always the case. For many Chicago residents, it can be difficult to even imagine reaching a compromise with your ex-spouse about anything, especially an issue concerning the children. For others, the prospect of shared parenting is not daunting because of the requirement that the parents communicate but instead because they believe that shared parenting time is tough on children and worry that having their child move between houses might be detrimental.
A recent study from the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) recently reviewed 54 other studies on shared parenting and drew some inferences that ultimately suggest shared parenting is best for children in both the short term and the long term. While the study was conducted in Australia, it has relevance for families in Chicago, and in the U.S. more generally, that are thinking about divorce and parenting time. The following are some of the key conclusions from the study.
Equal or Nearly Equal Parenting Time Improves Outcomes for Children
The study found that children, regardless of age, who spend nearly equal or equal parenting time with both parents have better outcomes when it comes to academics, behavior, emotional health, physical health, and future relationships. However, this is only true for children who are not in family situations in which one parent was abusive and was not allocated parenting time for reasons of abuse. In those situations, allocating parenting time only to one parent would likely result in a better outcome for the child.
More specifically, assuming that there is no abuse in the family and no reason to avoid allocating shared parenting time, children from divorce who spend significant time at both parents’ homes show the following in relation to kids in situations where one parent has sole physical custody:
- Higher academic achievement;
- Less prone to anxiety and depression;
- Lower rate of behavioral problems, including underage use of drugs and alcohol or misbehaving at school;
- Improved physical health;
- Fewer stress-related illnesses; and
- Better relationship with both parents, stepparents, and grandparents.
Infants and Toddlers Also Benefit From Shared Parenting Time
Many parents worry that especially young children, such as infants and toddlers, may have trouble adjusting to two households. However, studies show that even infants and toddlers have better outcomes when they spend time in the households of both parents, suggesting that the benefits of shared parenting outweigh any difficulties associated with mid-week household changes.
Even High Parental Conflict Does Not Impact the Benefits of Shared Parenting
If you are concerned that conflicts with the child’s other parent will outweigh the benefits associated with shared parenting time, it is important to know that studies suggest high parental conflict does not overshadow the advantages of shared parenting.