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Overnight Custody Creates Attachment Issues in Children

Frequent overnights away from primary parent tied to greater attachment insecurity among infants

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A small percentage of young children have frequent overnight contact with nonresident parents, and these overnight visits can create attachment insecurity, particularly among infants, according to research published in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Samantha L. Tornello, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and colleagues analyzed data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal examination of children born to primarily low-income, racial/ethnic minority parents.

The researchers found that, among young children whose parents lived apart, 6.9 percent of infants (birth to age 1 year) and 5.3 percent of toddlers (ages 1 to 3 years) spent an average of at least one overnight per week with their nonresident parent. An additional 6.8 percent of toddlers spent 35 to 70 percent of overnights with nonresident parents. Attachment insecurity in infants was significantly associated with frequent overnights, although the association was less clear for toddlers. While frequent overnights were not directly linked with adjustment problems at older ages, attachment insecurity predicted adjustment problems at ages 3 and 5 years.

"In a large, diverse U.S. sample, we found frequent overnights to be uncommon, but hardly nonexistent," the authors write.

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