Sweden to the forefront in Shared Parenting Arrangements

Dr. Roisin O’ Shea of Arc Mediation and Dr. Sinead Conneely of Waterford Institute of Technology attended and presented at the International Conference for Shared Parenting, Bonn University, July 2014. 

Sweden has the highest rates of shared parenting arrangements in Europe and Australia, with 38% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 in shared parenting arrangements.The new research was presented in July 2014 at Bonn University by Dr. Malin Bergstrom of the Centre for Health Equity Studies Sweden (CHESS), at the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2014, attended by 31 countries including Israel, Canada and America.

Dr. Bergstrom defined “shared parenting” as parenting arrangements post the break-down of a marriage/relationship where the child or children are with one parent for at least 30% of the time each week.

The Swedish research findings are very interesting, they have seen a phenomenal change in parenting arrangements between 1984 and 2011. My research shows that approximately 1% of parenting post separation or divorce in Ireland are shared parenting arrangements, which matches the Swedish figures from 1984, where between 1 and 2% of families engaged in shared parenting post marriage break-down. By 2011 38% of all families post the break-down of the marriage relationship in Sweden were engaged in shared parenting. The recent Swedish survey sample was 172,000 children. 2% of children lived only with the father, and 11% of children lived only with the mother. Swedish born children were more likely to live with both parents equally, younger parents (under 30) are more inclined to share parenting on a 50/50 basis. Dr Bergstrom highlighted a new trend in Sweden called “bird nesting”, where the children remain in the family home and one parent at a time lives with the children, switching parental nesting based on an agreed schedule. The study also indicated that parents who can co-operate during the process of separation and are able to adjust economically are most likely to enter into shared parenting arrangements. Crucially the study found that children screened for “well being” did best in “intact” families, followed by shared parenting arrangements. When asked why shared parenting has increased so significantly in Sweden Dr. Bergstrom indicated there were three factors. The first was the development of accessible affordable day care for children, which enabled women to remain in the workforce, which in turn ensured a 50/50 parenting role for men who availed of Parental leave. The key difference between 1984 and 2014 is the support of gender equality in parenting, both as a social norm and politically supported. My research in Ireland shows that we appear to be where Sweden was in 1984, where exorbitant child care costs make it unaffordable for both parents to work, and the social expectation is that women will stay at home with young children.