Relationships Quick Answers
What are the effects on children of joint physical custody arrangements in which children have dual residence (e.g. alternating weeks or months living in each parent's home)?
Dual residence means that the child spends some time living with each parent, but not necessarily equal time. This arrangement can work well for some families, but may be very difficult for others.
Researchers recently compared the results of 33
studies of custody arrangements. They found that in
general, children in joint custody arrangements are
better adjusted (better emotional adjustment, family
relationships, self-esteem, and behavior) and may be
more satisfied than children in sole custody
arrangements. Most adolescents were doing well
regardless of whether they lived primarily with their
mother, primarily with their father, or spent equal time
living with both. However,
when there was conflict between parents, the adolescents
who spent equal time living with both parents were more
negatively affected by the conflict.
So, some issues to consider in deciding whether or
not to pursue a dual residence arrangement are:
1. The level of conflict between parents. An equal
time arrangement may not be optimal if there is a lot of
conflict between parents. Parents need to be able to
communicate and cooperate with each other for this type
of arrangement to work well.
2. The child's level of adaptability to change. Equal
time arrangements work best for children with a
flexible, adaptable temperament.
3. The child's age. For preschool-age children, it
may be difficult to make frequent transitions between
homes. However, it also may be difficult for a
preschool-age child to maintain a close bond with a
parent he or she doesn't see for a long time. Younger
children need consistent routines so it is important to
keep routines in each household as consistent as
adolescent children, it is important to consider whether
their activities will be monitored in both homes. It is
important for adolescents to be accountable to a parent
who knows where they are and and what they are doing at
Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Assistant Professor and State Specialist, Human Development & Family Studies, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Alison Levitch, Human Development & Family Studies Graduate Student, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Adapted by Maureen Jenkins, Web Editor, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Friday, August 22, 2008