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Stress level lower than thought in kids whose custody is shared

When a relationship ends and the couple has children together they are often a priority for the parents. Making choices that are in their best interest may control the process. Because many believe that it is best for children to be in a cohesive family unit, some parents may even opt to stay together “for the good of the children.” They may do so thinking that it will reduce stress in the lives of the children caused by being shuttled from one parent to the other. While few would fault parents for avoiding a split for the benefit of the child, recent research indicates that a joint custody situation may not be as bad for kids as once thought.

A study focusing on this issue was recently completed in Sweden, conducted by the Center for Health Equity Studies at Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute. It looked at the results of classroom survey administered in 2009 to children living in nuclear families, with both parents via a joint custody arrangement, mostly with one parent and only with one parent.

Focusing on psychosomatic health problems that are often tied to stress—such as sleeping problems and headaches—readers will likely be unsurprised to learn that the group that most often dealt with those issues were the kids who only lived with one parent. Twenty-two percent reported sleep issues and 19 percent reported headaches.

What may be surprising is where children whose parents have joint custody fell into the mix. Fourteen percent of children in this situation reported issues with sleeping, only slightly higher than the 13 percent of kids in nuclear families that had the problem. Similarly, where headaches were concerned, 12 percent of kids from nuclear families reported experiencing headaches while just slightly more—14 percent—of children in joint custody situations dealt with that issue.

While there are of course some factors that are not accounted for in the study—such as the socioeconomic status of the children in each group and the amicability of the separation—it does provide some information that lends credibility to not “staying together for the children.”

When a couple does decide to split, to make sure that they are getting everything to which they are due, it is important to work with a family law lawyer.

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