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Back-to-school: How to Raise Disadvantaged Children’s Test Scores with No Cost to the Taxpayer

Aug. 11, 2017

Research shows link between two-parent model and school success

With back-to-school season upon us, we are once again faced with the paradox that educational test scores among disadvantaged students have barely budged over the past 50 years despite vastly increased school spending and hundreds of educational experiments. National Parents Organization encourages lawmakers, educators, parents, and family court judges to take note of the robust research showing that a major piece of the gap could be closed by making shared parenting after parents separate or divorce the norm instead of the exception.

Consider the following data:

·         According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for 71 percent of high school dropouts.

·         Linda Nielsen, a professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University, published research titled, “Divorced Fathers and Their Daughters: A Review of Recent Research.” She found that children, specifically daughters, need a relationship with their father post-divorce. Pantene and Mattel used her research to create 30-second Super Bowl spots in 2016 and 2017, respectively, showing dads playing with their daughters. Her research concluded that daughters who have active fathers tend to have more self-confidence, better mental health and are more successful in school.

·         The Office for National Statistics (U.K.) report shows a father’s level of education is the strongest factor in determining a child’s future success at school, while a mother’s education level was important to a lesser degree.

·         A review of nearly 50 peer-reviewed research papers on post-divorce parenting found that almost every study found better results for children who had shared parenting after parental separation or divorce; the improved outcomes were reflected in many measures, including education. The results were endorsed by 110 experts around the world. (See more below on Dr. Warshak.)

Despite this research, shared parenting – where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce – remains rare. According to the U.S. Census, sole custody, usually awarded to the mother, is in place in more than 80 percent of child custody cases. The other parent, usually the father, is not awarded enough parenting time to have a positive influence during the school week.

“As families and communities set goals for their children this school year, we must look at the facts and work together to ensure children of separated and divorced families have the strong foundation needed to succeed in school – and that foundation is the active involvement of both parents,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization.

While shared parenting is uncommon, in this year alone, 25 states have considered legislation seeking to turn shared parenting from the exception to the norm – states passing laws supportive of the reform in the past year include Missouri and Kentucky.

“At this time of year, we often hear of lawmakers supporting back-to-school initiatives such as school supply drives, and speaking of the importance of good studying habits, etc. To truly get to the core of the issue, I urge legislators in every state to take it a step further and pass laws supportive of shared parenting this school year,” Dr. Holstein said.


Shared Parenting Data

·         The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “… shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”

·         In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers.”

·         The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.

·         The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”

·            In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.

Single Parenting Data

According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

·         63% of teen suicides;

·         70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;

·         71% of high school drop-outs;

·         75% of children in chemical abuse centers;

·         85% of those in prison;

·         85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and

·         90% of homeless and runaway children.


Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.

A regular contributor to local and national media, Dr. Holstein is Founder and Chair of the Board of National Parents Organization. Dr. Holstein was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, and he was previously appointed by a Massachusetts Chief Justice to a task force charged with reviewing and revising the state’s child support guidelines.

A graduate of Harvard College, Holstein also earned a Master’s degree in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His medical degree is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he later served on the faculty as a teacher and researcher. 


National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. In 2014, National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws. Visit the National Parents Organization website at

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