Yet another study has been published showing the benefits shared parenting offers families. This one indicates that it’s not only fathers and children who are better off with shared parenting arrangements after divorce, but mothers as well.
A common concern regarding shared parenting is that splitting overnights between each parent could potentially harm an infant or toddler’s relationship with his or her mother. However, research from Arizona State University suggests that children, regardless of their age, benefit from having parenting time with both parents, including sleepovers.
The study is titled “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data,” and was published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law.
The study’s lead author William Fabricius said in a release that the study showed the entire family was better off when fathers were granted overnights while their child was a toddler or infant.
“Not only did overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood cause no harm to the mother-child relationship, it actually appeared to benefit children’s relationships with both their mothers and their fathers,” said Fabricius, who is an associate professor of psychology at ASU and has contributed to some of the most influential studies regarding shared parenting. “Children who had overnights with their fathers when they were infants or toddlers had higher-quality relationships with their fathers as well as with their mothers when they were 18 to 20 years old than children who had no overnights.”
The study indicated it’s crucial for children to have parenting time with mom and dad while they are infants and toddlers because the amount of parenting time small children had with their fathers later in childhood failed to make up for a lack of overnight in the first few years of their lives.
Every increase in the number of overnights fathers were granted each week during infancy and toddlerhood led to a corresponding increase in the strength and closeness of their relationships with their grown children. The older children with the best relationships with both of their parents were the ones who split overnights with mom and dad in their infant and toddler years.
Another significant finding was that the findings remained the same regardless of whether the courts ordered overnight parenting time or if the parents agreed to equivalent overnights. The findings were also not affected by the amount of parental conflict in the first five years of the parents’ divorce.
It appears that overnight stays early on help dads build intimacy early on in their child’s life.
“Having to care for their infants and toddlers for the whole cycle of evening, bedtime, nighttime and morning helps dads learn how to parent their children from the beginning,” Fabricius said. “It helps dads and babies learn about each other, and provides a foundation for their future relationship. Other studies have shown that programs that encourage married dads to take more responsibility for infant care help those dads learn better parenting skills, and we think that the same kind of thing happens when divorced dads have overnight parenting time.”
This study is just the latest to be added to a robust collection of research showing that equal parenting is by far the best post-divorce arrangement for children. Children who have access to only one parent face a number of potential negative outcomes. They are:
- More likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
- Twice as likely to drop out of high school
- Four times as likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems
- Seven times as likely to become a teen parent
- More likely to face abuse and neglect
Although progress has been incremental, and shared parenting opponents still exist, the shared parenting movement is continuing to pick up momentum. Significant victories were gained in 2016 and 2015, and 25 states have introduced shared parenting legislation in 2017 and more are expected to follow suit.
The research doesn’t lie. It’s now just a matter of the law catching up to the data.