NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Says Joint Custody of Children Helps

March 28, 2002

When a couple approaches divorce, it would be wise to decide on joint custody for the children, a new study contends. Children in joint custody tend to have fewer behavioral and emotional problems than those assigned to just one parent, according to a report in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Here are a few highlights of the research:

  • Children in joint custody are said to have higher self esteem, better family relations and better school performance than those in sole custody (usually by the mother).
  • Although those in sole custody are not necessarily maladjusted, they tend not to do as well on average.
  • Keeping fathers in the loop seems to help children adjust, researchers say.

Psychologist Robert Bauserman of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene examined 33 studies that looked at 1,846 sole-custody and 814 joint-custody children as well as children in 251 intact families to come to his conclusions.

Sole-custody parents seem to continue high levels of conflict over parenting decisions, while joint-custody parents appear to be more capable of parenting together with less emotional conflict, he found.

The findings contradict experts who believe joint custody disrupts the stability of a child's life shifting back and forth between parents.

Source: Karen S. Peterson, "Joint Custody Best for Kids After Divorce, Study Says," USA Today, March 25, 2002; based on Robert Bauserman, "Child Adjustment in Joint-Custody Versus Sole-Custody Arrangements: A Meta-Analytic Review," Journal of Family Psychology, 2002, Vol. 16, No. 1, American Psychological Association.

For USA Today text


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