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Every child, particularly those who are middle school-age, experiences a certain amount of stress in their lives. However, the results of one recent study indicate that those children who live in single-parent homes report experiencing more adverse stress-related health symptoms.

For the study, researchers in Sweden examined some 150,000 sixth and ninth grade students to determine what impact, if any; family structure and child custody arrangements have on a child’s stress level. Study participants included 69 percent of children who lived with married parents, 19 percent who shared time between divorced or separated parents and 13 percent who lived with “only one parent.”

Researchers aimed to examine the frequency with which participants reported suffering so-called adverse psychosomatic health symptoms. Findings indicate that children, who live with one parent experience significantly more headaches, sleep problems, stomach aches and dizzy and sad spells than those who live with both married parents or who enjoy joint custody arrangements.

Research and child psychology experts often point to the damaging effects of divorce and separation on children. However, the results of this study indicate that, when it comes to a child’s wellbeing, joint child custody arrangements are likely the next best thing to living with two parents who are married or still together.

Studies like this one help benefit divorced and separated fathers who are often at a disadvantage when it comes to winning joint child custody rights. While currently joint custody is granted in only roughly 20 percent of U.S. child custody cases, fathers’ rights advocates are hopeful that research findings like this may help increase the number of children and fathers who benefit from shared parenting arrangements. 

Source: Time, “This Divorce Arrangement Stresses Kids Out Most,” Mandy Oaklander, April 27, 2015