WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Children of divorced parents suffer less stress if they spend time living with both parents, a new study suggests.
The research evaluated psychosomatic symptoms among children of divorce. This study goes against what many believe is a detrimental living situation for children. The lack of stability and moving around has often led people to associate living with two parents separately as a negative arrangement.
“Child experts and people in general assumed that these children should be more stressed,” Malin Bergström, PhD, researcher at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, said, as reported by TIME. “But this study opposes a major concern that this should not be good for children.”
The study looked at 150,000 Swedish children from ages 12-15. Researchers evaluated the participants on psychosomatic health problems, including sleep problems, concentration difficulty, decreased appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feelings of tension, sadness and dizziness. Of the research pool, 69 percent of children lived in nuclear families, 19 percent spent time living with both parents, and 13 percent lived with only one parent.
Unsurprising, children in nuclear families suffered the least psychosomatic problems. However, researchers say that those who spent time living with both parents had significantly lower problems than those who spent time living with only one parent.
“Children will do best if they know that their mother and father will still be their parents and remain involved with them even though the marriage is ending and the parents won’t live together,” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes.
Ned Holstein, MD, founder and acting executive director of the National Parents Organization, estimates that less than 20 percent of kids with divorced parents in the U.S. live in joint-custody arrangements.
“We think that having everyday contact with both parents seems to be more important, in terms of stress, than living in two different homes,” Bergström tells TIME.
When children live with two parents the number of resources such as family members and social circles is often more expansive.
“Only having access to half of that may make children more vulnerable or stressed than having it from both parents, even though they don’t live together,” she says.
The study was published April 27 online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.