Children whose parents choose to terminate their marriage may negotiate a parenting plan that ends in either sole custody or joint custody of the child. Although one parent may want to have sole custody and keep the child the majority of the time, studies show that this may not be the best option for kids. Researchers have found that in most cases, children who live in a joint custody household may have advantages over kids who are raised in a sole custody arrangement.
A meta-analysis, which was published in Journal of Family Psychology, evaluated 33 studies and found that kids are better adjusted when they are able to spend a significant amount of time with both parents. Researchers followed kids in sole-custody, joint-custody and intact family relationships and discovered that kids who are able to spend time with both parents had higher self-esteem, fewer behavior problems, better family relationships, did better at school and had fewer emotional disturbances.
Why do children fair better in these types of situations? Each parent plays a different role in a child’s life. Mothers give children security, caring and nurturing. Fathers, on the other hand, encourage independence, achievement and competition. Fathers teach children that it is okay to explore their surroundings and give them permission to take risks. They also may be better at offering protection and discipline.
It is important to keep in mind that not all kids will do better in a joint-parent arrangement, as some parents may be abusive or unhealthy. However, when kids are exposed to two loving parents who give solid emotional support, they may do better in life.