Americans like to gather statistics… as long as the numbers have dollar signs in front of them or are at least related to dollar figures (e.g., school test scores, which tend to predict employer demand for graduates).
Europeans, on the other hand, seem to be a lot more interested in how people feel. The Spanish, for example, have assembled a huge data set by surveying school children (roughly 10-18 years of age) and asking them, e.g., how satisfied they are with their lives. They also ask for a lot of demographic data and therefore it is possible to get some insight into what makes children happy.
On a slide featuring these Spanish data at the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, there was the same pattern that Malin Bergstrom and colleagues found in Swedish data on 172,000 children (see the Children, Mothers, and Fathers chapter for references): children who live with mom and dad in an intact family are happier than children who live in a 50/50 arrangement with a separated mom and dad who are in turn substantially happier than children who live primarily with one parent (i.e., parental separation makes children less happy, but children in 50/50 shared parenting aren’t all that different from their counterparts in nuclear families).
Much more interesting to me, however, was that the happiest children in Spain were not those who lived with their mother and father in a nuclear family. There was a yet happier group: those who lived with their two fathers. (This phenomenon cannot be explained by a preference for same-sex parenting; children who lived with their two mothers were extremely unhappy, one of the most dramatic differences in any two populations presented at the conference.)
Readers: Discuss! (I posted this on Facebook and there wasn’t a single comment. Either the above information is uninteresting or people are afraid to say anything about it! Of course I couldn’t resist noting that “for couples who really want the best for their kids it may be a good idea to look at transgender options”. Perhaps that was offensive? I don’t think it is that I have been defriended by all of the right-thinking folks on Facebook. An adjacent incredibly dull post about our 1.75-year-old’s first use of chopsticks got more than 30 “likes”)
[Separately, Spain is interesting for its regional variation in family law. Unlike France and Germany, but like the U.S., the law is different from region to region and outcomes are different from region to region even when the law is the same. For example, in some regions of Spain it is obvious that, post-separation, a child’s best interest is to be in a roughly 50/50 shared parenting situation and have ample access to both parents. Since 2010, this may be written into the law as a presumption. Across a state line, however, the statutory and/or judicial presumption will be that obviously a child’s best interest is to have a stable home base and be primarily with one parent, visiting the other parent occasionally. The regional prevalence of shared parenting tracks the legal environment and ranges from 8 percent to 40 percent (with an average of about 25 percent). Like Americans, Spaniards are comfortable with the idea that “justice” and “best interests of the child” may be completely different for two children living on opposite sides of a state or provincial border.]
Consistent with the first paragraph, I’m not aware of any way to compare Americans to their Spanish counterparts. The U.S. has more children not living with both parents than any other nation (both percentage and absolute), but nobody in the U.S. seems to care what is happening with these kids. Their living schedule and access to parents are governed by government court orders, but no state or federal agency bothers to track the contents of these orders. Therefore it would be impossible to say what percentage of children are living in shared parenting versus primary/secondary custody situations. We make K-12 students sit for standardized tests regularly, but I don’t think there are any questions about “How do you feel about your life?”