Recently, the Council of Italian Bishops endorsed shared parenting after divorce or separation by publishing a full-page spread in its official newspaper, Avvenire.
The article urges family courts to not only support shared parenting, but to also ensure the arrangement occurs in practice. It was also supportive of legislative efforts encouraging shared parenting.
Avvenire, which is published in Milan, is widely considered to be the voice of the Pope in Italy.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Pope has endorsed shared parenting:
- In June 2015, he encouraged couples to work together as parents even after they separate.
- In January 2015, he urged fathers to remain present in their children’s lives and said “fathers are necessary as examples and guides of our children.”
- In November 2014, he said children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father.
According to the National Parents Organization, this is the first time a major religious body has taken a stance on shared parenting.
“Given the historical reluctance of the Church to involve itself in matters of divorce, this is a striking development,” wrote NPO founder Ned Holstein.
This also another indicator that the Catholic Church might be softening its stance on divorce. Last year, Pope Francis acknowledged the complexities of divorce by urging Catholics to be more welcoming of those who divorce and remarry.
This is a welcome development and further proof that the shared-parenting movement is continuing to gain momentum.
In 2014, the NPO released a National Shared Parenting Report Card and states, across the board, scored poorly with 25 receiving a D grade and no states earning an A.
However, 2015 seemed to be a breakthrough year for the movement as nearly 20 states considered child custody law changes that support shared parenting.
This trend figures to continue as more research mounts proving the benefits of giving children equal access to both parents.
Last year, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that children are mentally healthiest when they can split their time between both divorced parents. For years, social scientists have almost unanimously agreed that shared parenting is the best arrangement to offset the negative effects divorce can have on kids.
Consider these shared-parenting facts:
- Children with divorced parents who are both active in the parenting process are statistically happier, more secure, and more adjusted at home, in school, in clubs, in sports, with friends, and in all aspects of their lives.
- Children of divorced parents fare significantly better when they spend parenting time with both parents. Children who regularly do this have fewer injuries, less asthma, less headaches, and less speech defects than children primarily raised by one parent.
- Children from single-parent homes have higher high school dropout rates, higher rates of suicide, and more problems relating to their peers.
The notion that children are better off with just one parent after divorce is just one of many outdated gender stereotypes dads must overcome in family law.
More and more research is showing how valuable and unique a father’s contributions to a child’s upbringing are. In the past, researchers focused primarily on whether or not fathers were present in the home and how that affected child development.
Today, we’re learning more how fathers interact with their kids. The findings show the more engaged and active dads are, the more children benefit.
“We found through the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s that there really was strong evidence that when fathers were engaged with their kids, the amount of things they did with their kids … whether it was playing with their child, whether it was doing monitoring of the child … knowing who their friends were or helping with homework, all those things mattered to these kids,” said Justin Dyer, who is an associate professor at Brigham Young University whose research focuses on the contribution of fathers to their children’s well-being, “and you saw that the kids were doing better on almost any index you can think of.”
The evidence is clear. Children need Mom I and Dad. Social scientists see it. The Pope sees it. And hopefully more and more legislators start to see that need as well.