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04.02.2021

Linda NIELSEN, Ph.D. | Joint vs Sole Physical Custody: Outcomes for Children Independent of Family Income or Parental Conflict | by Wake Forest University

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Dr. Linda NIELSEN – Professor of Adolescent & Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University. Her research and courses are focused on shared physical custody for children with separated parents and father-daughter relationships, with a special emphasis on divorced fathers. In addition to her many academic articles, she has written three books on father-daughter relationships and a college textbook, Adolescence: A Contemporary View.  She is often invited to present her research on child custody to family court and mental health professionals and to legislative policy makers in the U.S. and abroad. Her work has been featured in a PBS documentary, on National Public Radio, and in magazines and newspapers including Time, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She was guest editor in 2018 of the special issue of the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage on shared parenting and is presently finishing the second edition of her college textbook, Father and Daughters: Contemporary Research & Issues.

Publications & Studies

Research

Reviewing 60 comparative research studies on shared parenting, Nielsen found that in 34 of the studies, the children with a shared parenting arrangement had better outcomes on all of the measured variables for well-being, compared with children living in a sole custody arrangement. In 14 of the studies, shared parenting children had either better or equal outcomes on all measures; in six of the studies, all very small, they had equal outcomes on all measures; and in another six studies, they had worse outcomes on one measure and equal or better outcomes on the remaining measures. The results were similar for the subset of studies that adjusted for socio-economic variables and the level of conflict between parents. The variables for which shared parenting provided the biggest advantage were family relationships, physical health, adolescent behavior and mental health, in that order. The variable with the smallest difference was academic achievement, for which only 3 out 10 studies showed an advantage for shared parenting.[5]

Based on her own research and the research of others, Nielsen has concluded that absent situations in which children needed protection from an abusive or negligent parent even before their parents separated—children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families and that maintaining strong relationships with both parents by living in shared parenting families appears to offset the damage of high parental conflict and poor co-parenting.[6]

Father–Daughter Relationship

Nielsen has conducted extensive research on the importance of father–daughter relationships both during childhood on subsequent adult life, with a special emphasis on the relationship between daughters and divorced fathers.[7][8]

«Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn an mir kënnen e Beispill fir den Rescht vun Europa sinn.» –

– «We want to remain what we are and we can be an example for the rest of Europe.»

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