Summary of the essential points
- Balanced and meaningful contact with each parent in the course of everyday life is a most powerful predictor of a child’s future health, well-being, and positive social functioning
- Maternal and paternal parenting is equally important for a child’s well-being
- Research on children’s overnights with fathers favors allowing children under four to be cared for at night by each parent rather than spending every night in the same home
- More frequent contact with fathers brings benefits but does not come at the expense of the quality of the mother– child relationships.
- Doing things differently by / with the father is OK
- Time distribution arrangements that ensure the involvement of both parents in important aspects of their children’s everyday lives and routines — including bedtime and waking rituals, transitions to and from school, and extracurricular and recreational activities — are likely to keep nonresidential parents playing psychologically important and central roles in the lives of their children.
- There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement
- Spending half time as a parent with infants and toddlers is more than sufficient to support children’s needs. Thus, to maximize children’s chances of having a good and secure relationship with each parent, both parents are encouraged to maximize the time they spend with their children. Parents have no reason to worry if they share parenting time up to 50/50
- Two-thirds of Swedish preschoolers with non-cohabiting parents live in two homes
Research details with references
Importance of family and parenting environment
Piotrowska et al. (2016) Pathways to health, well-being and positive social functioning have their roots in childhood. Perhaps the most powerful predictor of these pathways is the quality of early family and parenting environments to which the child is exposed.
Jurczyk and Klinkhardt (2014) The family is the first context for a child’s development, and the most important. …. In their daily interactions, children, mothers and fathers learn from and with one another. They develop empathy and a sense of responsibility, and learn to deal with conflict. Values, beliefs and norms, passed on from parents to children; evolve in the course of everyday life. Thus parents exert an enormous influence on their children’s educational opportunities and overall life chances — as research in Germany and other countries has clearly shown. (p. 3)
Warshak (2016) Young children’s interests benefit when two adequate parents follow a parenting plan that provides their children with balanced and meaningful contact with each parent.
Definition of shared / joint parenting
Pruett (2014) Joint decision making (joint legal custody) and shared parenting time (joint physical custody).
Importance of having time alone with parents
Bastaits and Mortelmans (2014) Results reveal that the impact of maternal and paternal parenting is equally important to the well-being of children. This remains the same for both children in joint custody and in families with non-residential fathers. Parental support has a particularly strong effect in improving the well-being of children. The parenting of divorced fathers is therefore just as important to the well-being of children as is the parenting of divorced mothers. (p. 351)
Wilson and Prior (2010) What they believed was important for children in having this time together alone (with their father) again featured love and closeness (attachment), and the opportunity to demonstrate both their difference to their partner (doing things differently) and their parenting importance and competence as being equal to that of the mother (co-parenting). … The importance to fathers of their love and affection for their children was clearly evident in the current study, and the opportunity for unique father–child time may be important in the formation of father–child attachment.
Importance of overnight stays with both parents
Warshak (2016) Research on children’s overnights with fathers favors allowing children under four to be cared for at night by each parent rather than spending every night in the same home. We find the theoretical and practical considerations favoring overnights for most young children to be more compelling than concerns that overnights might jeopardize children’s development. …. Overnights create potential benefits related to the logistics of sharing parenting time.
Warshak (2016) Parenting schedules that offer the father and child 2-hr blocks of time together, two or three times per week, can unduly stress their contacts. Consider the logistics of loading a baby and necessary paraphernalia in a car, driving to the father’s residence, unloading the car, feeding the child, and helping the child become accustomed to the surroundings. If the child has to be returned within 2 hours of being picked up by the father, this leaves little time for relaxed interaction. Overnights help to reduce the tension associated with rushing to return the child, and thus potentially improve the quality and satisfaction of the contact both for the parent and child. Overnights allow the child to settle in to the father’s home, which would be more familiar to the child who regularly spends the night in the home compared with one who has only 1-hr segments in the home (allowing for transportation and preparation for the return trip). The physical spaces in which father– child interactions take place influence the nature and types of interaction, and affect the father’s identity as a parent (Marsiglio, Roy, & Fox, 2005). Spending the night allows the father to participate in a wider range of bonding activities, such as engaging in bedtime rituals and comforting the child in the event of nighttime awakenings. An additional advantage of overnights is that in the morning the father can return the child to the daycare; this avoids exposing the child to tensions associated with the parents’ direct contact with each other. … Depriving young children of overnights with their fathers could compromise the quality of their developing relationship.
Advantage of different households with different cultures and languages
Sims and Coley (2016) Analyses revealed significant differences in inputs by ethnic/language group membership and significant associations between both maternal and paternal inputs and children’s skills. These associations did not differ across ethnic/language group membership. Practice or Policy: These results point to the importance of promoting rich home language and literacy environments across diverse households regardless of the language in which they take place or the parent from which they derive. (p. 495)
Relationship between daughter and biological father
Flynn (2015) A child recognizes biological ties within their immediate and extended family.
Gežová Katarína (2015) One of the serious problems caused by the absence of one of the parents during the upbringing process is a missing opportunity to achieve sexual identity by identification with the parent of the same gender and differentiation from parent with the opposite gender. “Child needs both parents, especially due the differences between the genders, the mental selfhood of man and woman, who complement each other as two halves forming one whole unit. A child, who is, for any reason, brought up only by a father or mother, is literally lacking the second half. And this can originate to a miscellaneous life and personal complications.”
Gežová Katarína (2015) A daughter who did not experience a father’s love may arrive at a conviction that it is normal and can end up in the relationships which will not satisfy and fulfil her.
Relationship between mother and daughter
Warshak (2016) More frequent contact with fathers brings benefits but does not come at the expense of the quality of the mother– child relationships. The research reviewed earlier on parenting time in intact families shows that the average infant in the United States spends less than half time in the care of the mother and even less time receiving direct care from her. Combined with the daycare studies, this research should put to rest the idea that children are inevitably harmed by extended separations from their mothers. (p. 58)
Pruett (2014) We believe that, when all potential hazards are addressed, shared parenting offers unparalleled opportunities for families to reorganize and sustain their better selves after separation to ensure that children continue to be nurtured by parents whose collaboration sets a path for a strong family future. (p. 171)
Warshak (2016) Shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children. (p. 59/60)
Martínez-Pampliega et al. (2015) … The aim of such responsibility is to try and create a suitable climate and foster positive relationships with children, irrespective of what the other partner does and irrespective of whether conflict is present which, at times, may be inevitable between ex-partners. (p. 3791)
Warshak (2016) A multidisciplinary group of experts, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, met in 1994 to evaluate the empirical evidence regarding the ways in which children are affected by divorce and the impact of various custody arrangements. This group issued a report (Lamb, Sternberg, & Thompson, 1997) with the following conclusion relevant to parenting plans for young children: To maintain high-quality relationships with their children, parents need to have sufficiently extensive and regular interaction with them, but the amount of time involved is usually less important than the quality of the interaction that it fosters. Time distribution arrangements that ensure the involvement of both parents in important aspects of their children’s everyday lives and routines — including bedtime and waking rituals, transitions to and from school, extracurricular and recreational activities — are likely to keep nonresidential parents playing psychologically important and central roles in the lives of their children. How this is accomplished must be flexibly tailored to the developmental needs, temperament, and changing individual circumstances of the children concerned (p. 400). (p. 59)
Warshak (2016) In general the results of the studies reviewed in this document are favorable to parenting plans that more evenly balance young children’s time between two homes. Child developmental theory and data show that babies normally form attachments to both parents and that a parent’s absence for long periods of time jeopardizes the security of these attachments. Evidence regarding the amount of parenting time in intact families and regarding the impact of daycare demonstrates that spending half time with infants and toddlers is more than sufficient to support children’s needs. Thus, to maximize children’s chances of having a good and secure relationship with each parent, we encourage both parents to maximize the time they spend with their children. Parents have no reason to worry if they share parenting time up to 50/50 when this is compatible with the logistics of each parent’s schedule.
Warshak (2016) Parenting plans that provide children with contact no more than six days per month with a parent, and require the children to wait more than a week between contacts, tax the parent–child relationships. This type of limited access schedule risks compromising the foundation of the parent–child bond. It deprives children of the type of relationship and contact that most children want with both parents. The research supports the growing trend of statutory law and case law that encourages maximizing children’s time with both parents. This may be even more important for young children in order to lay a strong foundation for their relationships with their fathers and to foster security in those relationships.
Warshak (2016) There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including over-nights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. Maintaining children’s attachment relationships with each parent is an important consideration when developing parenting plans. The likelihood of maintaining these relationships is maximized by reducing the lengths of separations between children and each parent and by providing adequate parenting time for each parent. Such arrangements allow each parent to learn about the child’s individual needs and to hone parenting skills most appropriate for each developmental period.
Fransson (2016) Joint physical custody, i.e., children spending an equal amount of time in both parents’ home after a separation or divorce, is increasing in many countries. In line with the national policy to promote paternal involvement in parenting, two-thirds of Swedish preschoolers with non-cohabiting parents live in two homes. Internationally, there has been a debate regarding the benefits or risks with joint physical custody for infants and toddlers. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the reasons given by divorced parents for sharing joint physical custody of children 0–4 years of age. Interviews were conducted with 46 parents (18 fathers and 28 mothers) and analyzed using systematic text condensation. Two themes emerged in response to the research question. In the theme Same rights and responsibilities, parents described that joint physical custody was ‘a given’ as both parents were seen to have equal rights to and responsibility for the children. Both men and women described involved father- hood as an ideal goal. In the theme For the sake of the child, parents emphasized that joint physical custody was in the best interest of the child. Some parents had conflicts with their ex-spouses, but were still convinced of the benefits of joint physical custody and strove to make it work. (p. 154)
Warshak (2016) There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including over- nights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. Maintaining children’s attachment relationships with each parent is an important consideration when developing parenting plans. The likelihood of maintaining these relationships is maximized by reducing the lengths of separations between children and each parent and by providing adequate parenting time for each parent.
Medeiros, Gouveia, Canavarro, and Moreira (2016) The child’s perception of security in the relationship with their parents mediated the link between the mindful parenting of both parents and the well-being of their child, and these associations were not moderated by the child’s age. Our findings suggest that mindful parenting is positively associated with a child’s well-being through a more secure perception of the relationship with the parents. This result highlights the importance of including mindful parenting practices in parental training programs directed at both mothers and fathers of children and adolescents with the aim of promoting a more secure parent-child relationship and, consequently, the child’s well-being. (p. 916)
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