Very small infants are in the first stages of development and in the process of building a secure attachments. At this age, they have no concept of the world outside of their immediate environment. It is important, therefore, that they see familiar faces regularly, have their needs met promptly and have firmly boundaried routines.
In the past, it was considered that very small infants should spend the majority of their time with only one parent and that, as a result, they should spend nights only in one household. However, the latest research strongly suggests that it is better for children, even when they are very young, to spend significant amounts of time with both parents and that this should include over-night care in both households. A recent study, endorsed by 110 international researchers and practitioners, concluded that 'in normal circumstances, the evidence supports shared residential arrangements for children under 4 years of age whose parents live apart from each other.'
When families are living together, normal parent-child relationships emerge from less than full-time care and less than round-the-clock presence of parents. Full-time maternal care is not necessary for children to develop normally and children’s healthy development can and usually does sustain many hours of separation between mother and child.
Child developmental theory and data show that babies normally form attachments to both parents but that a parent’s absence for long periods of time jeopardises the security of these attachments. It is, therefore important that infants of this age spend significant amounts of time with each parent and that the frequency of time spent with each parent is such that it does not undermine the baby's attachment to both of its parents.
However, this does not mean that parents should necessarily divide young children’s time exactly evenly between homes. It is important that parents begin thinking about their parenting time arrangements from the position of what will work best in their own individual circumstances whilst ensuring the that an infant's need for close, frequent and predictable time with each parent is protected.
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