Previous research has suggested that children whose parents have split up are more prone to emotional and behavioural problems than those who live in a nuclear family with two co-habiting parents.
But children living in joint custody arrangements had fewer psychosomatic problems than their peers living mostly or only with one parent. Teens living mostly with one parent as a result of family break-up reported the most psychosomatic problems while those living with both parents in a nuclear family set-up reported the fewest.
By way of an explanation for the differences noted between children living with one or both separated parents, the researchers emphasise that psychosomatic symptoms are related to stress, and living in two different homes could be stressful for children. But this could be outweighed by the positive effects of maintaining close contact with both parents, they suggest.
The researchers used data from a national classroom survey of almost 150,000 Swedish 12 and 15 year olds in a bid to see if children’s domestic living arrangements were linked to a heightened risk of psychosomatic problems.
Researchers Malin Bergström, Emma Fransson, Bitte Modin and Anders Hjern (among others) from CHESS have participated in the study. Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) was created in 2000 jointly by Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet.