International comparison of adolescent joint physical custody

Research on Joint Physical Custody and Adolescents’ Life Satisfaction in 37 North American and European Countries gives an indication of national differences in shared parenting.

The data for this study come from Health Behaviour in School‐Aged Children (HBSC), a representative cross‐national survey of adolescents in 37 European and North American countries that was conducted in 2002, 2006, and 2010 and included information on students at the ages of 11, 13, and 15 years (N = 92,886).

The study shows that less than 5% of young people in separated families spend equal amounts of time with both of their parents in most countries.  Top ranking countries are Sweden (20.9%), Belgium (13.5%), Iceland (11.7%) and Denmark and Canada (both 9.5%).  The remaining countries with above average joint physical custody levels are Norway (8.8%), Netherlands (7.5%), France (7.2%), UK and Ireland (both 6.6%).

While any international comparison is interesting, this measure only relates to 11-, 13- and 15-year olds included in the first three rounds of the HSBC study conducted by the World Health Organisation conducted between 2001 and 2010.

Adolescents’ life satisfaction in separated families is higher in symmetric Joint Physical Custody (JPC) arrangements than in asymmetric care arrangements. However, after controlling for children and family characteristics, the differences disappear. It is not the actual symmetric JPC arrangement that induces adolescents’ higher life satisfaction, but rather the children and family characteristics that are associated with the choice of such a custody arrangement by separated or divorced parents.  Family affluence and the quality of communication between the parents played a major role in the children’s life satisfaction.