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Entries in sweden (4)


Holyrood event hears how shared parenting works in Sweden

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."


Is shared parenting a healthy option?

Critics of shared parenting sometimes argue that the regular moves between two homes are stressful for the children. 

A new Swedish study  based on a national survey of nearly 150 000 Swedish children aged 12 and 15 years, shows that children who live equally with both parents after a parental separation suffered from less psychosomatic problems than those living mostly or only with one parent.

Children in shared parenting (also called joint physical custody) reported more psychosomatic problems than those in nuclear families,

Girls suffered from more problems than boys. Sadness was the most frequent problem for girls in all living arrangements, followed by sleeping problems and headaches. For boys, sleeping and concentration problems were most common.

This pattern, with children in shared parenting showing fewer problems than those living with one parent, has been established in other Swedish studies in relation to outcomes such as satisfaction with life, risk behaviour, parent–child relationships, school achievement, well-being and mental health.

In Sweden 30-40% of children in separated families are in joint parental custody, spending at least 30% of their time with each parent.  It is estimated that around 14% of separating parents in Sweden have conflicts regarding custody and children's housing and about 2% have their custody disputes resolved in court.  The proportion of Swedish children born out of wedlock or to non-cohabiting parents is low (6% in 2009) compared with other Western countries.


Sweden leads the way in shared parenting

Percentage of children with separated parents in shared care

As the above graph shows, Sweden currently leads the way in shared care. As it is also a country that systematically collects data on the public health of the whole population, it is becoming possible to assess how children and young people are affected by shared parenting.

Dr Malin Bergstrom from the Swedish Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) presented results from a study on the mental health and life quality of children in a shared parenting arrangement.

She explained that shared parenting levels are so high in Sweden because fathers are more involved from birth - she reported hearing a father say "we gave birth" when talking to the midwife. Shared parenting has grown from 18% to 38% between 1984 and 2011, helped by a change in family law in 1998, but the law alone is not sufficient - public opinions and attitudes have changed to support it.

In a whole population study of 11-15 year old children, children in shared parenting showed lower levels of truanting (19%) than those in sole care of mothers (22%) or fathers (28%) and only slightly above children living with both parents (18%). Many other indicators of mental health and well-being show similar results.  

These Swedish findings are comparable to the recent Growing Up in Scotland study, in which seven-year old children not in regular contact with their father were more than twice as those who have regular contact with their father to show behavioural and emotional difficulties (36% vs 15%, figure 3.2 on page 18).


Sweden: shared parenting paradise?

Woman's Hour investigates shared parenting and gender equality in Sweden - but will Jenni Murray ask the fathers as well as the mothers?  Thursday 17th at 10am on Radio 4

Sweden is a country that's rated top for gender equality, while its furniture finds space in our homes and our TV schedules make space for the latest Scandi-crime series, The Bridge.

But what is life like for women in a country where shared parenting in the norm and childcare is unquestioningly subsidised by the state? Jenni Murray travels to the capital Stockholm to find out whether the egalitarian dream is all it's cracked up to be.