Policies and Children’s Living Arrangements: A Closer Look at Shared Custody, Extended and Skipped-Generation Households
(Family and Child Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Children’s living arrangements have become increasingly complex. Children are increasingly exposed to changes in family structure and household structure. Social policy has struggled to respond to these changes that involve more fluid and complex arrangements usually outside of the traditional nuclear family. Understanding how such complex family and household arrangements interact with an array of family policies is important to assess the extent to which current policies are appropriately serving these families, as it has direct implications for well-being.
This panel presents four papers that examine a variety of children’s living arrangements including shared custody, extended-family households, and skipped-generation households, as well as the implications of these arrangements for a variety of family policies.
The first paper investigates the prevalence of shared custody across the U.S. and the challenges for family policies in serving families in which children spend time in two different households. Using national data, the authors document increases in the proportion of shared custody cases among those who divorce. They then discuss the differences in prevalence by states’ policy rules, and the implications for an array of policies including SNAP, TANF, and housing assistance.
The second paper also examines shared custody, but in an international context. The authors examine how child support policy responds to cases with typical custody and shared custody cases in 12 countries and 5 U.S. states. Preliminary findings show that child support expectations differ substantially across countries; there are also substantial differences in how countries respond to shared care cases. The authors explore whether such differences are related to other features of the family support policy system in these locations.
The third paper examines whether financial contributions made by noncustodial parents (NCP) differ based on the presence of other related adults in the custodial parent’s (CP) home. The author uses U.S. national data, and the findings suggest that NCPs’ cash and in-kind contributions are both less likely and lower when the CP and the child live in an extended-family household. This finding will be further investigated to identify whether lower financial contributions to extended-family households are linked to NCPs choosing lower support when there are other related adults in the CPs home.
The fourth paper draws on qualitative data from African American grandmothers raising grandchildren in skipped-generation households to examine how a variety of policies interact with this particular living arrangement in the U.S. Preliminary findings document the significant challenges that already economically disadvantaged grandmothers face to access public assistance, and the ways in which they negotiate the need to access such help while avoiding the loss of their grandchildren.
The panel’s discussants are a former policy analyst at USDHHS whose expertise includes policy and research work on child support and fatherhood, and an academic with expertise in the living arrangements of low-income children and the ways in which social policy might improve the developmental and life trajectories of these children.
This panel discusses implications for different family policies in the United States and other countries.