Mental health in Swedish children living in joint physical custody and their parents’ life satisfaction: A cross-sectional study.


This study compared the psychological symptoms of 129 children in joint physical custody with children in single care and nuclear families, using a nationally representative 2011 survey of 1,297 Swedish children aged between four and 18 years. The outcome measure was the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and its association with three dimensions of parental life satisfaction was investigated. Linear regression analyses showed higher SDQ-scores for children in joint physical custody (B = 1.4, p < 0.001) and single care (B = 2.2, p < 0.001) than in nuclear families, after adjustment for socio-demographic variables. The estimates decreased to 1.1 and 1.3, respectively, after being adjusted for parental life satisfaction (p < 0.01). Our findings confirm previous research that showed lower symptom scores for children in nuclear families than children in single care and joint physical custody. Parental life satisfaction should be investigated further as a possible explanation of differences in symptom load between children in different living arrangements.