Child-perceived parental support and knowledge in shared physical custody and other living arrangements for children
Keywords:child custody, joint custody, divorce, separation, health behavior in school-aged children
Objective: The aim of this paper is to develop an understanding of how child-perceived parental support and knowledge among children in Sweden differ across ten forms of residential arrangement.
Background: Shared physical custody has become an increasingly common arrangement for children in separated families in many European countries. In an international comparison, Sweden has a high rate of parental union dissolution but also the highest prevalence of shared physical custody arrangements following divorce or separation. Over a third of all children with divorced or separated parents spend an equal amount of time living in both parental households.
Method: We used data from the Swedish HBSC survey from 2013/14, which are focused on children in grades 5, 7 and 9 in the Swedish comprehensive school system (n=7360) and used perceived parental support and perceived parental knowledge scales as dependent variables in multiple ordered logistic regressions conducted separately by the sex of the parent.
Results: The results show that children in shared physical custody report higher levels of parental support and knowledge than children in sole physical custody and equally high as those who live in a two-parent family. Children living in non-symmetrical physical custody arrangements report lower levels of paternal support and knowledge than children whose parents share physical custody equally. Maternal support and knowledge does not differ between children living in symmetrical and non-symmetrical shared physical custody arrangements, whereas paternal support and knowledge is lower in families where the child lives in an unequal residential sharing arrangement with the mother as the main co-residential parent.
Conclusion: Post-divorce living arrangements are clearly associated with the relationship between parents and children, with children in shared physical custody reporting stronger relationships than children in sole physical custody. The cross-sectional nature of the data prevents us from drawing conclusions on causality, however.
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