MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Rolla     ●    St. Louis


Relationships Quick Answers



I am a single parent. The person who my toddler-aged daughter considers to be her other parent is my former partner, who has no legal or biological ties to my child. My daughter and my ex love each other and I allow my daughter to spend full days alone with him/her. What is best for my daughter in terms of visitation or overnight arrangements?

There is no simple answer to this question. Even though your ex is not a legal or biological parent to your daughter, it sounds like he/she plays a parental role. Research tells us it is important for children to have ongoing, supportive relationships with both of their parents. It is also important for both parents to be involved in as many of everyday caregiving activities as possible (feeding, playing, discipline, bathing, putting to bed). Also, the more cooperative you and your ex can be with each other, the easier the situation will be for your child.

For young children, it is important to minimize extended separations from either parent. This means frequent contact with both parents.

Regarding the possibility of overnight visitations with your daughter’s other parent, the research findings are mixed.

  • Some researchers believe that overnight visits for young children are problematic because of the disruption of the child’s routines and the separation from the parent who is the primary caregiver. This may cause some anxiety for the child.
  • However, equal numbers of researchers believe that overnight visits are important for fostering a close relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent, which is very important for the child’s development. So, there is not a clear answer about the effects of overnight visits on young children.

There are a number of factors to consider when making a decision about custody/visitation arrangements. These include:

  • Child’s temperament
  • Child’s age
  • Amount of conflict between you and your ex

Situations that expose children to high levels of conflict (beyond the typical level of conflict that can be expected for divorced/separated parents), or put children in the middle of conflicts can have negative effects on development.

The following resources may help you in deciding what is best for your child:


Lamb, M.E., Sternberg, K.J., & Thompson, R.A. (1997). The effects of divorce and custody arrangements on children's behavior, development, and adjustment. Family & Conciliation Courts Review, 35, 393-404.

Solomon, J., & George, C. (1999). The effects on attachment of overnight visitation in divorced and separated families: A longitudinal follow-up. In J. Solomon & C. George (Eds.), Attachment Disorganization (pp. 243-264). New York: Guilford Press. 





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








Can't Find Your Question Here? Try Searching Our Quick Answer Knowledge Base

Last update: Tuesday, August 26, 2008




University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator: 
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri-Columbia