A recent study analyzed the living arrangements of 147,839 children in the sixth and ninth grades. Of the children studied, 69% lived at home with both parents, 21% lived mostly or entirely with one parent, and 10% spent about equal time with both parents.
Not surprisingly, the children who lived with both parents had the fewest psychosomatic health issues – headaches, upset stomach, trouble sleeping, problems with concentration, loss of appetite, and sadness.
The children who lived with only one parent experienced these problems the most – especially trouble sleeping and headaches. This group was also the least satisfied with their relationship with their parents. Children who spent about equal time with both parents had fewer of these health problems than the children who lived primarily with one parent. This group was only slightly less satisfied with their relationship with their parents as compared to the group of children who lived with both parents in the same home.
The researchers wrote that the data suggests that “the potential stress from living in two homes could be outweighed by the positive effects of close contact with both parents.”
In my experience, having practiced family law for 16 years, there has been a huge change in the attitudes judges have toward equal (or nearly equal) time sharing. 16 years ago, judges were hesitant to allow equal time sharing even when the parents agreed that such an arrangement was in the best interests of their child. Now, an equal time sharing agreement is very often viewed as a positive for everyone.
The data in this study did not include data about the level on conflict within the child’s family. It is certainly possible that a child would experience more of these health problem when living with both parent who often argued.
The study can be found in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health