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What's More Stressful for Kids of Divorce: Joint or Shared Custody?

The Short of It

When parents get a divorce, they wonder what type of living arrangement will be best for their kids. And some may assume that joint physical custody—with all the bouncing back and forth between parents' homes—would be the most stressful. But a new study says that's not necessarily true.

The Lowdown

The study, published in the "Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health" set out to settle the debate between joint and shared custody and the stress each can inflict on kids.

Researchers used data from a Swedish survey of all sixth- and ninth-graders in the country to gauge how many kids were having psychosomatic problems—symptoms such as trouble sleeping, headaches, stomachaches and changes in appetite, brought on by stress rather than illness—and whether or not those stress effects could be linked to their living situations.

Sixty-nine percent of the kids lived with both parents in the same home; 19 percent spent time living with two divorced parents; and 13 percent lived with just one parent.

They found that those who lived with their entire nuclear family had the fewest psychosomatic problems. In divorced families, those living with just one parent had more psychosomatic problems than those who shared time between both parents' homes.

The Upshot

Researchers say many reasons could contribute to the difference in stress between the groups of kids. But they do note that, "Their satisfaction with their material resources and parent-child relationships is important for their psychosomatic health."

It makes sense that if kids have access to both parents and have two parents financially contributing, they'd be less stressed. This news could make some parents rethink starting a heated custody battle when they divorce.

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