Co-parenting over time
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Co-parenting over time The impact of legislative changes on the incidence and predictors of joint custody. Divorce Conference - Valencia Saturday 16th of October 2010. An Katrien Sodermans Koen Matthijs Research Group Family & Population. CeS0. K.U.Leuven.

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Divorce conference valencia saturday 16th of october 2010

Co-parenting over timeThe impact of legislative changes on the incidence and predictors of joint custody

Divorce Conference - Valencia

Saturday 16th of October 2010

An Katrien Sodermans

Koen Matthijs

Research Group Family & Population. CeS0. K.U.Leuven


Evolutions in the area of child custody

Evolutions in the area of child custody

  • Changed evaluation of parental role

    • From mother as primary caregiver towards equality of parents

    • “The parental couple survives the conjugal couple” (Villeneuve-Gokalp, 2009)

  • Changes in Belgian custody legislation (as in many Western countries)

    • 1995: Joint legal custody

    • 2006: Joint physical custody (as preferred residential model)

  • Joint custody: assumed beneficial effects on child well-being (Meta-analysis of Bausermann, 2002):

    • Maintaining parent-child relationship

    • More parental involvement

    • Better financial resources

  • Consequence: Increased number of children in bi-location, commuting between the household of mother and father after divorce = shared residence


Consequences of joint physical custody

Consequences of joint physical custody

  • Be careful with a selection bias! Selection of higher social class-families into shared residence

  • Predictors of shared residence:

    • Higher income, higher educated parents

    • Lower parental conflict

    • Less children, more often boys

  • Studies about the effects of shared residence for the well-being of children are mostly based on the situation where the residence type was a “free choice”

  • In Belgium: “shared residence” became the standard.

    RESEARCH QUESTION:

    Did predictors of shared residence change due to legislative changes in 1995 and 2006?


Data and sample

Data and sample

  • “Divorce in Flanders” dataset (19/07/10)

  • 1819 divorced individuals with at least one child at the time of the divorce

  • Independent observations

  • Random selection of one partner from each dissolved marriage

  • 801 fathers (44%) and 1018 mothers (56%)

  • Separated (started living separately) between 1973 and 2009

  • Selected child:

    • Between 0 and 40 years old at time of separation (mean age: 9,4)

    • 954 boys (52%) and 865 girls (48%)


Dependent variable residence type

Dependent variable: Residence type

  • Residence type at time of separation (unless temporary

    arrangement of one year or less)


Independent variables

Independent variables

Divorce cohort: based on year of starting living separately

Educational level


Independent variables1

Independent variables

Parental conflict

How much conflict was there between you both after the decision to definitely break up? Give a number from 0 (no conflict) to 10 (a lot of conflict).


Results incidence of joint physical custody

Results: Incidence of joint physical custody

Distribution (column %) of residence type per divorce cohort

 Flexible residence omitted from further analyses

Chi² = 68,19; p<0,0001


Results factors associated with shared residence

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

1. Education of father

Distribution (column %) of father’s educational level per residence type and divorce cohort


Results factors associated with shared residence1

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

2. Education of mother

Distribution (column %) of mother’s educational level per residence type and divorce cohort


Results factors associated with shared residence2

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

3. Sex of the child

Distribution (column %) of sex per residence type and divorce cohort


Results factors associated with shared residence3

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

4. Age of the child (at time of separation)

Median age of children per residence type and divorce cohort


Results factors associated with shared residence4

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

5. Family size

Distribution (%) of number of children per residence type and divorce cohort


Results factors associated with shared residence5

Results: Factors associated with shared residence

6. Conflict between ex-partners

Distribution (%) of conflict level per residence type and divorce cohort


Results change in predictors of shared residence

Results: Change in predictors of shared residence

*** p<0.001; ** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05; ° p < 0.10


Summary of results

Summary of results

Education of father

  • Before 1995: higher incidence of joint custody with high and middle educated fathers

  • After legislative changes in 1995 and 2006: effect of education decreased

  • Legislative changes have led to cumulative diffusion process of joint physical custody from high to low SES

    Age of the child at separation

  • Effect of age increased over time

  • Before 1995 no effect, after 1995, joint custody more often with younger children

  • Evidence that custody decisions are now more in the interest of the child? (Maintaining good parent-child relationship especially important with younger children)

  • Or measurement issue?

    Sex of the child

  • Before 2006 higher incidence of joint custody with boys (bivariate results)

  • After 2006: no association with sex of child

  • Joint custody used to be popular for higher educated fathers with sons!


Summary of results1

Summary of results

Family size

  • Before 1995: lower incidence of joint custody in large families

  • Since 1995: effect of family size decreased

  • Confirmation for normalisation process: joint custody became the new standard, whatever the composition of the family

    Parental conflict

  • Before 1995: joint custody especially in low-conflict divorces

  • Since 1995  decreased association between conflict and joint custody

  • Since 2006: the opposite trend becomes visible: more joint custody in middle and high conflicted families (bivariate results).

  • Link with diffusion of joint custody to lower ses-families?

  • Joint custody as “victory” in court? “Having the children” as a goal?

  • Joint custody to avoid alimony payment?


Discussion

Discussion

  • What will be the consequences of the diffusion process regarding joint custody from high to low ses (and from low to high conflict couples), given the fact that joint custody

    • is an expensive arrangement (housing, transport, double equipment)

    • requires higher parental communication/cooperation skills

  • Are the positive effects of joint custody for children, reported in many research, conditional upon the socio-demographic profile of the parents (higher SES, lower conflict)?

  • Is it desireable that joint custody is ‘promoted’ by the law as standard model?


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