Are Parents with Shared Residence Happier ? Children’s Post-divorce Residence Arrangements and Parents’ Life Satisfaction
Source: Stockholm Research Reports in Demography 2015: 17
Franciëlla van der Heijden, Utrecht University
Michael Gähler, SOFI, Stockholm University
Juho Härkönen, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
This study investigates whether shared residence parents experience higher life satisfaction than sole and non-resident parents, and whether frequent visitation is similarly related to parents’ life satisfaction as shared residence. Regression analyses on data from 4,175 recently divorced parents show that shared residence parents report higher life satisfaction than other, particularly non-resident, parents, but that this relationship can largely be explained by benefits and opportunity costs of parenthood. Shared residence fathers enjoy a better relationship with their child and their ex-partner and are more engaged in leisure activities than nonresident fathers. Shared residence mothers are more involved in leisure activities, employment, and romantic relationships than sole resident mothers. These differences contribute to the shared residence parents’ higher life satisfaction. Frequent interaction between the non-resident father and the child could partly, but not completely, substitute for shared residence, increasing both non-resident fathers’ and sole mothers’ life satisfaction.
Keywords: Divorce, Joint physical custody, Life satisfaction, Living arrangements, Parents, Shared residence, Subjective well-being.
Download the full report: http://www.suda.su.se/SRRD/SRRD_2015_17.pdf
Definition – Shared residence (also called joint physical custody, shared placement, or alternating residence), in which children reside more or less equally with each parent, has become a popular post-dissolution residence arrangement in several Western countries.
” . . . . Fathers who see their child several times a week are as satisfied with their lives as shared residence fathers and fathers’ life satisfaction decreases the less they see their child. There is, however, a caveat for concluding that frequent visitation can replace shared residency as a provider of life satisfaction: nonresident fathers’ child visitation seems to compete with involvement in a new romantic relationship (which increases life satisfaction).”
” . . . Once repartnering was controlled for, even frequently visiting fathers had lower life satisfaction than shared residence fathers. Shared residence fathers thus benefit from having a better relationship with their child even compared to frequently visiting nonresident fathers.”
” . . . . . . Our findings are generally similar to those by Sodermans and colleagues (2015), the only previous study to analyze residence arrangements’ importance for parental well-being. We, too, found that the parent-child relationship and leisure activities account for an important share of the life satisfaction differences by residence arrangements. In addition, we analyzed the importance of repartnering, parental conflict, and employment as explanations and importantly, showed that frequent visitation of the nonresident parent cannot fully substitute for shared residence in shaping parental well-being.”
” . . . . Despite these limitations, our study has shown that parents with shared residence are more satisfied with their lives than parents with a different arrangement because they can engage in a larger number of satisfying activities. It also showed that while frequent visitation of the non-resident parent has similar life satisfaction effects, it is not a perfect substitute for shared residence. Our findings have thus added to the literature suggesting that shared residence is a favorable post-family dissolution arrangement for children and adults alike.”