Social workers custody recommendations: Contributions of child’s expected quality of life and parental features

Bilhah Davidson-Arad, Orna Cohen*, Yochanan Wozner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study of the custody recommendations of 130 social workers in Israel shows that they generally recommended custody with the parent with whom the child was expected to have the higher quality of life (as assessed by Shye's Systemic Quality of Life Model), whose economic status was better, who had fewer emotional, physical, and cognitive problems, and who were not engaged in criminal activity. The findings also show, however, that the disparities in the child's expected QOL with each of his/her parents had significantly greater explanatory power than that of these parental features and, moreover, that the parental features added little to its explanatory power. These findings highlight the importance of expected quality of life in custody decisions as well as the utility of the Systemic Quality of Life Model for examining and explaining custody decisions. In addition, the findings show that mothers who were poor or who had cognitive or psychological problems were around three times more likely to be awarded custody than fathers in the same situation. This difference suggests that the social workers weighed the father's problems against him more heavily than they weighed the mother's problems against her and provides yet further evidence of gender bias in professionals' custody recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-26
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Child custody
  • Children of divorce
  • Parents and divorce
  • Social workers and divorce


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