In a significant shift in post-divorce family dynamics, shared child custody, where children spend almost equal time with each parent, has become increasingly prevalent in Europe over the past two decades. However, a study led by researchers from the University of Turku's INVEST Research Center and flagship has revealed notable variations in the prevalence of this arrangement across different European countries.
The team, including Mia Hakovirta, Milla Salin, Eija Lindroos, and Mari Haapanen, investigated the frequency of shared custody in Europe, defining it as an arrangement where children spend at least one-third of their time with each parent. According to Professor Mia Hakovirta, a social work expert, their findings show that 12.5% of children from separated families in Europe live equally with both parents, 8.2% spend 10-14 nights per month with one parent and the remainder with the other, while a significant 79.3% live predominantly with one parent.
Previous studies have indicated positive impacts of shared custody on both parents' and children's well-being. It is observed to improve cooperation and reduce conflicts between parents post-separation. Furthermore, shared custody is linked to better socioemotional and psychological well-being in children and has been found to increase mothers' well-being and life satisfaction.
Despite the growing trend, the study highlights considerable differences in the prevalence of shared custody among European countries. The arrangement where a child spends equal time with both parents is most common in Sweden, where 42.5% of children live equally with both parents. Finland follows with 23.8% of children in such arrangements. In contrast, shared custody is rarest in countries like the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Austria, with only a few percent of children experiencing equal time with both parents.
The study also reveals that living predominantly with one parent is more common among the youngest (0-5 years old) and oldest (16-17 years old) children, with respective rates of 84.8% and 82.5%. Shared custody is most frequent among school-aged children.
This research sheds light on the evolving nature of child custody arrangements in Europe, underscoring the shift towards more balanced parenting post-divorce and the variations in its adoption across different European nations.
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