Most experts agree that shared parenting is in the best interests of the child. There are legitimate concerns from researchers that shared parenting is not the best arrangement for every family, including where family abuse is found. There are other situations where academics are yet to agree, including the shared parenting of infants and toddlers. Find out below what the leading experts have to say about the outcomes of shared parenting for children.
Note: Some of the research into shared parenting has sparked a lot of controversy and contention. This is largely linked to research being misquoted, questions about the methodology of studies and the difficulty of comparing research that define shared parenting in different ways. Be sure to take care when reading about research online.
A Child-Centred Approach
Experts suggest that separated parents must think carefully to ensure they serve their children’s needs and put these above their own. Parenting arrangements should not be about Mothers' rights against Fathers' rights. See our section on conflict as a barrier to shared parenting for more information on this.
Shared parenting must reduce day to day stress for children while ensuring they feel safe, comfortable and providing meaningful, consistent relationships with their parents. We believe these factors can also be recognized in the Scottish Government's definitions of child wellbeing.
Needs & Wishes
Research has concluded that children are more likely to feel positive when shared time arrangements are flexible, child focused and when they get a say in the details of those arrangements
Researchers therefore emphasise the importance of listening to children’s needs. For example considering how each parent's work schedule coincides with the child's school calendar.
But experts also highlight the importance of listening to the child's wishes when determining a parenting plan.
Many warn against simply using a child's wishes to make decisions. This can put a lot of stress and pressure on the child in a high conflict situation, by burdening a child to choose between parents. Also, McIntosh stresses that we shouldn't always take a child's wishes at face value, they must be put in the context of their developmental stage.
Child Inclusion In Dispute Resolution
For families dealing with conflict, child inclusive mediation may solve these difficulties by allowing a child's wishes to be respected. Listen to Calm Scotland's interview with Carol Hope to find out more.
This child inclusive approach has been found to lower shared parenting acrimony as well as benefiting parent-child relationships (especially with fathers) and positively impacting on a child's long term emotional and psychological development.
It can be difficult to imagine what separation can be like for children. Watch Tom's true story about his parent's divorce below. Children Beyond Dispute can provide you with more information. Voices In The Middle also offers a platform for children from separated families to shares their stories.