Swedish study compared how children were affected by living arrangements after a break-up.

Children who live with just one parent after a family break-up suffer from more problems such as headaches, stomach aches, feelings of tension and sadness than those whose parents share custody, research has found.

A study carried out in Sweden compared how children were affected by living with both parents, only one parent, mostly one parent, or by dividing their time between both in joint custody - and found that children in the latter category suffered from fewer psychosomatic problems than those living mostly or only with one parent.

Youngsters living with both parents in a nuclear family set-up had the lowest score of all on the Psychosomatic Problems scale - which also measured issues such as children's concentration, difficulties with sleeping, dizziness and loss of appetite.

The proportion of children who said they "often" or "always" had the different symptoms assessed on the scale was highest among those who lived with just one parent.


Overall, girls reported more psychosomatic problems than boys.

The study authors said that joint custody has become more common in Sweden in recent years, rising from about 1 per cent to 2 per cent in the mid-1980s to up to 40 per cent of children with separated parents in 2010.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2012 was 118,140, affecting just under 100,000 children under the age of 16.

The researchers, who analysed 150,000 children aged 12 and 15 in Sweden, pointed out that several previous studies have established children with divorced or separated parents are more likely to suffer emotional problems and social maladjustment.

"The practice of joint physical custody, that is, children spending equal time in the respective homes of their separated parents, has become more frequent in Western countries over the past decade," they said.

"At the same time, there has been an increase in self-reported pediatric psychosomatic symptoms. Child health experts have argued that joint physical custody imposes stress."

The study, led by the Centre for Health Equity Studies (Chess) at Stockholm University/Karolinska Institutet, is published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.