40% of separated families in Sweden share the care of their children equally, and there are significant benefits for children and young people from this sharing of parental care.
At an event at the Holyrood Parliament to celebrate five years of Families Need Fathers Scotland as a registered charity, heads of children's and family organisations, family lawyers, civil servants, parents and MSPs heard about Dr Malin Bergström's research work on shared care in Sweden.
She described how the Swedish 'Viking Father' is nowadays more likely to be holding a baby than a weapon. The reasons for this include comprehensive parental leave provision for fathers and mothers since 1974, a family law change supporting shared parenting as the default option in 1998 and widespread public daycare.
Working at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, Dr Bergström is studying well-being, mental health and social situation in school aged children and preschoolers in shared parenting arrangements. Over a wide range of measures the performance of children in 50:50 shared care is very close to that of children in intact nuclear families, and significantly better than those in families where one parent has the majority or sole care of the children.
Families Need Fathers Scotland used this event to press the case it is making for changes in Scottish family law, family court processes and family dispute resolution outside courts that would support shared parenting as the best option for children after separation. National Manager Ian Maxwell stated that this will be a key priority for the organisation over the next five years, and thanked the event's host, John Mason MSP, and other MSPs who attended the event or who have met us to hear why we are seeking to modernise Scottish family law.
Ross Thomson MSP has now asked a Parliamentary question about the Scottish government's action to promote a greater recognition of the benefits of shared parenting.
This has been answered by Justice Minister Annabelle Ewing, stating the government's intention to: "review the law in this area - the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 - to ensure the interests of children and their need to form and maintain relationships with key adults in their lives – parents, step-parents, grandparents and other family members – are at the heart of any new statutory measures."