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Joint custody arrangements may make children happier

Throughout the United States, including in Washington, many children grow up in single parent households. Recently, a study was conducted in an attempt to understand the effect of child custody arrangements on the mental health of adolescent children.

The study was large, with 147,839 students between the age of 12 and 15 participating. 69 percent of them belonged to families whose parents lived together. Of those who belonged to divorced parents, only 10 percent spent almost equal amount of time with both the parents under a joint custody agreement, while 21 percent of the children lived almost entirely with one parent.

The research revealed that the children who lived with both parents showed the fewest signs of psychosomatic health issues, such as headaches, lack of concentration, loss of appetite or sleep disorders. They were also reported to be happy with the relationship they shared with their parents.

Children of divorced parents who lived mostly with one parent had more of these symptoms compared to those who spent equal amount of time with both parents. Children of single parents were also more unhappy with their relationship with their parents. Children sharing time with both parents, even after their divorce, were only a little dissatisfied with their parental relationships.

Based on the results, researchers concluded that although children of divorced parents have to live in two separate houses in order to spend equal time with both their parents, they were still happier because of the relationship they shared with each of their parents. Therefore, a joint custody arrangement after a divorce which allows equal parenting time to both former spouses might prove to be more beneficial for a child's mental health.

Source: Washington Post, "When divorced parents share custody, it's better for their kids' health," Linda Searing, May 11, 2015

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