Dundee Family Lawyer

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Shared custody can affect children’s attachments

A recent study from America has looked into the impact a joint custody arrangement can have on the ability of young children to form attachments to their caregivers.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that infants who were away from their mothers for at least one night a week developed a less secure attachment to their mother than those children who stayed away less often.

The study noted that fact that an increasing number of parents live separately for a number of reasons, including divorce, separation or the breakup of a cohabiting relationship. As a result, children are often brought up through a joint custody arrangement, and it is often down to the legal system to determine the details of this arrangement.

“Judges often find themselves making decisions regarding custody without knowing what actually may be in the best interest of the child, based on psychology research,” said lead author Samantha Tornello. “Our study raises the question, ‘Would babies be better off spending their overnights with a single caregiver, or at least less frequently in another home?’”

According to Tornello, it doesn’t matter who the primary caregiver is – it could be the mother or father – but it would be less disruptive for the child to spend each night with the same care giver rather than splitting nights between the two.

“We would want a child to be attached to both parents, but in the case of separation a child should have at least one good secure attachment,” she said. “It’s about having constant caregivers that’s important.”

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