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Study: Overnights With Divorced Dads Benefits Kids Later In Life

Despite the fact that plenty of marriages don’t make it, stereotypes about divorced (and separated) dads live on. It’s the assumption that time with dad could disrupt the bond with mom, while forcing the kids to eat Chinese takeout and sleep on a futon. Then you have to get your makeup artist brother to turn you into an old British nanny just to see them. Actually, that’s the plot to Mrs. Doubtfire — but that first misconception is challenged by recent research.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal of Psychology, Public Policy And Law, focused on the long-term impact overnight visitation with dads had on children, specifically during their first 3 years. Researchers surveyed 116 college age students, along with at least one of their parents. The self-reported study found overnights with dads did not have a negative impact on the kids’ relationship with their mothers, and actually resulted in stronger relationships with both parents in childhood and later in life.

This was true from infancy until age 3, but especially important at age 2. Data showed that overnight visitation at age 2 was a stronger indicator of healthy parent-child relationships than education, income, and the even the level of conflict between parents. It also found that daytime visits did not make up for time overnight. (Jury is still out on  a McDonald’s parking lot being the “ideal” place for a kid swap.)

“Having to care for their infants and toddlers for the whole cycle of evening, bedtime, nighttime, and morning helps dads learn how to parent their children from the beginning,” said William Fabricius, lead author of the study. It adds to a growing body of research that equitable parenting relationships are good for kids and families, and that parents do not have to be together for it to still be true. That’s good news for all weekend dads down at the apartment complex pool.