Sometimes Pennsylvania couples who have shared everything for years decide to end their marriage. When they do, they have countless decisions to make about un-sharing all the things that once tied them together. One of the most important of those decisions is how to share custody of the kids.

If neither spouse has abused the children, research shows joint custody is the best arrangement. In fact, the Institute for Family Studies states explicitly: “In the 54 studies – absent situations in which children needed protection from an abusive or negligent parent even before their parents separated – children in shared parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families.” 

“Better outcomes” refers to all aspects of a child’s well-being, including performance in school and balance in emotions. The IFS says interacting with both parents also gives kids better physical health and a stronger ability to maintain good relationships.

Part of the reason for this positive outcome may relate to the overall benefits of healthy relationships between parents and children. Kids grow up desiring to be close to their parents, and research confirms that strong parent-child relationships are good for both. 

In fact, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services adds, “Positive parent-child relationships are associated with higher levels of adolescent self-esteem, happiness and life satisfaction, and lower levels of emotional and physical distress.” Strong relationships between parents and children also contribute to a decrease in addictive behaviors and the use of alcohol and drugs. The DHHS says parents often have stronger influence than peers in some of these important areas.