skip to Main Content

Nov. 12, 2018-Emotional security and mental health improves with increased father parenting time

The findings of many studies in many Western countries now clearly show that more parenting time is related to greater divorced father-child relationship security. …

Young adults’ emotional security in the father-child relationship improved with each increment of overnights with fathers during infancy from no overnights with fathers to equal overnights with each parent. Importantly, neither of these studies show any deterioration of the mother-child relationship from 0% to 50% parenting time with fathers; in fact, Fabricius and Suh (2017) found some improvement in mother-child relationships when fathers had overnight parenting time, perhaps because it helped relieve some of the stress of being a full-time, single mother. …

Our latest study in this line of work (Suh, Fabricius, Stevenson, Parke, Cookston, Braver, & Saenz, 2017) found that adolescents’ perceptions of how much they mattered to their fathers were actually more important than their perceptions of how much they mattered to their mothers for predicting their later mental health….

… these reviews found that the quantity of parenting time was associated with a wide range of beneficial child outcomes in addition to improved father-child relationships, including academic success, mental health, behavioral adjustment, and self-esteem. …

The children who had almost equal parenting time (40% to 50%) had better behavioral adjustment (e.g., aggressiveness, conduct problems) and social adjustment (e.g., social skills, social acceptance) than children in sole physical custody, whereas those with 30% to 35% parenting time did not.

Several lines of research suggest that reduced parenting time with fathers threatens emotional security by preventing children from having sufficient daily interactions to reassure them that they matter to their fathers. The correlational findings of many studies show that more parenting time with fathers up to and including equal parenting time is associated with improved emotional security in the father-child relationship. None of these studies found that mother-child relationship security decreased with increasing parenting time with fathers. This means that the children of divorce with the best long-term relationships with both parents are those who had equal parenting time.

William V. Fabricius (2019), “Equal Parenting Time: The Case for a Legal Presumption”, Invited paper to appear in October 2019 in the Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law, edited by J.G. Dwyer, pre-publication online early 2019, Manuscript, pp. 8 – 16

Back To Top