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FamyCH: Family Custody Arrangements and Child Well-Being in Switzerland Joëlle Darwiche
Laura Bernardi
Sabrina Burgat
Elli Mosayebi

In 2019 in Switzerland, more than one in ten people with children under 18 are no longer in a relationship with the other parent. This results in Swiss children growing up within a diversity of custody arrangements and often having multilocal residence across parental households. Fathers have also become more involved over time, which has changed the patterns and the distribution of time that children spend with each parent. Despite these major changes in children's daily lives, we still know very little about the extent to which custody arrangements are stable and how they relate to child well-being (defined as a multidimensional concept consisting of emotional behavioral, physical, educational, and relational well-being) over time. And yet, understanding the impact of post-separation custody arrangements on child well-being is essential to provide valid empirical arguments for the elaboration of useful family policies and legal regulations of union dissolutions involving children. 

In 2017, the Swiss law changed to encourage LPC. Such change calls for solid research to identify the conditions under which children benefit from different forms of custody arrangements. Our project will focus on post-separation custody arrangements and their impact on children contributing to the identification of risk and resilience factors for child well-being after parental union dissolution in Switzerland.

Building on the insights of social demography, psychology, architecture and housing studies, and law, this interdisciplinary project investigates the interdependent effects of four key dimensions on child well-being: socio-structural (social inequalities within and between families), relational (interpersonal relationships between family members), spatial (housing-mobility arrangements), and legal (legal regulations and court decisions). Such dimensions emerge as critical in the literature but have not been addressed comprehensively together.

They will be analyzed through four interdisciplinary studies:

  • a longitudinal national panel survey, assessing indicators of child well-being in three different custody arrangements (LPC, SPC, and "intact" families), on a large sample of families of different SES conditions and family histories;
  • three nested studies specifically addressing: daily relational dynamics of parents and children within the three family structures; experience and practices of housing and mobility patterns using in-depth ethnographic observation;
  • the arguments defining the legal decisions about children’s physical custody in legal documents.


In light of the growing diversity of physical custody arrangements in Switzerland, family policies and the legal framework need to adapt to the needs of all children. By linking the analysis of large- scale panel data with innovative and intensive approaches, the project will produce the best integrated empirical evidence needed to further theory, research, and practice, to inform legal and housing market actors, and serve children’s developmental and psychological needs in Switzerland. This knowledge can guide professionals and parents in making decisions that are best for the children.

Important links

Project's website

Project page on the SNSF website

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