Introduction Changes in family law in many countries have preceded research addressing the developmental impacts of different patterns of parenting after separation. We use data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to examine differences in developmental outcomes due to different patterns of overnight care among infants and children with parents living elsewhere.
Analysis LSAC includes a national random sample of Australian children with a 2-stage clustered design. The analysis included 258 0–1 year olds, 509 2–3 year olds and 1292 4–5 year olds. Logistic and linear regression analysis was used to assess the effects of care arrangements, parenting style, relationship and demographics on developmental outcomes. Care arrangements were classified as shared care, primary parenting and rare contact based on the frequency of overnight stays with the parent living elsewhere.
Discussion Shared care was associated with higher irritability and visual monitoring of parents in 0–1 year olds. 2–3 year olds in shared care showed lower levels of persistence and more problematic behaviours on the Brief Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment Problems Scale than the primary care group. However by 4–5 years independent effects of care arrangement on emotional and behavioural regulation outcomes for children were no longer evident.
Conclusion This study reinforces the importance of considering children's needs at different developmental stages in developing family law policy and legislation.
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