Distressed Minds, Diseased Bodies – Divorced Parents

As though they did not face a daunting challenge dealing with sicknesses with identifiable physical causes, physicians working with adolescents must also treat an alarming number of psychosomatic illnesses—that is, illnesses triggered by mental or emotional stress. And a new study out of Sweden suggests that reducing that number may be difficult so long as a large percentage of children live with the consequences of parental divorce. Gauging the impact on psychosomatic illness of parental divorce and then of different kinds of custody arrangements after parental divorce was the primary intent of the authors of the new study—scholars affiliated with Linköping University and Stockholm University. Of particular interest to the researchers was Joint Physical Custody (JPC), a custody arrangement in which the children of divorce “live equally much in their parent’s respective homes.” Involving just 1-2% of Swedish children with divorced parents in the mid-1980s, JPC now involves 30-40% of such children. The researchers identify “Sweden’s active policy for parental equality” as a likely reason for this rise.   Because American progressives generally regard Sweden as a bellwether on gender issues, the Swedish turn on custody naturally attracts attention. Of course, the larger—but rarely acknowledged—issue is the effect on children of the permissive divorce laws that progressives have enacted in recent decades in both Western Europe and the United States, laws that helped drive up divorce rates in country after country. Though they ignore these children as much as possible, progressives feel enough twinges of discomfort over their plight that they desperately hope for a tidy resolution to the problem. And if that resolution can come out of Sweden—the land of heart’s desire for so many progressives—so much the better! Alas, the new study out of Sweden indicates that while Joint Physical Custody does seem to reduce the distress incident
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