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Impact of Child Custody in Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin Case


Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston may be on-again, off-again, but the impact of their child custody decision will have a long-lasting impact on their child, Tripp. According to the latest news from CNN and other sources, Palin and Johnston have agreed to share legal custody.

The custody agreement reached by the couple states that Palin will have primary physical custody of Tripp, while Johnston will have visitation rights two days per week. This agreement comes several weeks after Bristol called off the couple’s re-engagement.

Impact of Child Custody

In one study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, psychologist Robert Bauserman, PhD, analyzed 33 studies that included 1,846 sole custody and 814 joint custody children. He found that children from divorced families who either live with both parents at different times or spend a specific amount of time with each parent are better adjusted in most cases than children who live and interact with just one parent.

In another study, published in Law and Human Behavior, the investigators found that families with joint custody had fewer child adjustment problems. In yet another study, also published in the Journal of Family Psychology (2007), researchers found that the more time children lived with their fathers after divorce, the better their current relationships were with their fathers, independent of conflict between the parents.

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Impact of Palin/Johnston Custody

Palin and Johnston’s son, Tripp, was born in December 2008, so he is less than 2 years old. According to Robert Hughes, former professor, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, “very little is known about the effects of divorce on children younger than 2 years of age.”

Hughes notes that very young children do not necessarily suffer just because their parents have separated. “When the bonds between parent and child are severely disrupted, there may be a problem,” he noted in an interview with Parent News. “However, very young children do not necessarily suffer just because a divorce has occurred.”

Naturally, it is much too early to know what impact the child custody decision made by Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston will have on their child. If, as experts urge, they and other parents in similar situations remember that the physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare of their child should be first and foremost in their minds, then Tripp and other children like him have a much better chance of having a good relationship with both parents.

CNN, August 14, 2010
Bauserman R. Journal of Family Psychology 2002 Mar; 16(1): 91-102
Fabricius WV, Luecken LJ. Journal of Family Psychology 2007 Jun; 21(2): 195-205
Gunnoe ML, Braver SL. Law and Human Behavior 2001 Feb; 25(1): 25-43