Involved Fathers, Liberated Mothers? Joint Physical Custody and the Subjective Well-being of Divorced Parents

Abstract

More and more parents are sharing the care of their children after divorce. While the effects of joint physical custody on child outcomes have been studied abundantly, the consequences for parent’s well-being received less attention. This study investigates how the subjective well-being of divorce parents is affected by their custody status and hereby explores two mediating mechanisms: the parental involvement and the availability of leisure time. Data from the Divorce in Flanders survey (N = 1,506) is used to explore this question. There is no direct effect of custody on parents’ subjective well-being. We do find small indirect effects of custody on parents’ subjective wellbeing, which are gender specific. For divorced mothers, more parenting time is positively associated with subjective well-being through more openness in the mother–child communication. For divorced fathers, more parenting time is negatively associated with subjective well-being through more problems in the communication with their children.

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Correspondence to An Katrien Sodermans.

Appendix: Items Latent Variables

Appendix: Items Latent Variables

Self-Esteem

“To which extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements?” (1 = Totally not agree; 2 = not agree; 3 = neither agree nor disagree; 4 = agree; 5 = totally agree)

  1. 1.

    I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.

  2. 2.

    I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

  3. 3.

    All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.

  4. 4.

    I am able to do things as well as most other people.

  5. 5.

    I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

  6. 6.

    I take a positive attitude toward myself.

  7. 7.

    On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.

  8. 8.

    I wish I could have more respect for myself.

  9. 9.

    I certainly feel useless at times.

  10. 10.

    At times I think I am no good at all.

Feelings of Depression

“How often, in the past week, did you feel like …” (1 = seldom or never: 2 = sometimes; 3 = often; 4 = almost always)

  1. 1.

    I felt depressed.

  2. 2.

    I felt that everything I did was an effort.

  3. 3.

    My sleep was restless.

  4. 4.

    I was happy.

  5. 5.

    I felt lonely.

  6. 6.

    I enjoyed life.

  7. 7.

    I felt sad.

  8. 8.

    I could not get going.

Leisure Time

“How often did you do the following activities in your free time the past 12 months?” (1 = never; 2 = less than once a month; 3 = once a month; 4 = several times a month, but less than weekly; 5 = once a week; 6 = several times a week, but not daily; 7 = daily)

  1. 1.

    Doing sports.

  2. 2.

    Participating in cultural activities like going to the theatre, concerts or museums.

  3. 3.

    Going out to restaurants, bars, movie theatres or parties.

Openness in Communication

“To which extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements?” (on a 1–7 scale with 1 = totally not agree and 7 = totally agree)

  1. 1.

    My child openly shows affection to me.

  2. 2.

    There are topics that my child avoids talking about with me.

  3. 3.

    I am very satisfied with how my child and I talk with each other.

  4. 4.

    I find it easy to discuss problems with my child.

  5. 5.

    It is easy for my child to express all his/her true feelings to me.

  6. 6.

    When talking to me, my child has a tendency to say things that would be better left unsaid.

Problems in Communication

“To which extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements?” (on a 1–7 scale with 1 = totally not agree and 7 = totally agree)

  1. 1.

    I constantly nag and bother my child.

  2. 2.

    I insult my child when I am mad at her/him.

  3. 3.

    When talking to my child, I have a tendency to say things that would be better left unsaid.

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Sodermans, A.K., Botterman, S., Havermans, N. et al. Involved Fathers, Liberated Mothers? Joint Physical Custody and the Subjective Well-being of Divorced Parents. Soc Indic Res 122, 257–277 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0676-9

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Keywords

  • Divorce
  • Subjective well-being
  • Parenthood
  • Leisure time
  • Parental involvement
  • Structural equation model