Sinergia - Sub-Projects

Building on the insights of social demography, psychology, architecture and housing studies, and law, this SNSF funded interdisciplinary project investigates the effects of four key dimensions on child well-being:



In the midst of Switzerland’s changing family landscape, marked by a notable surge in  separations and repartnering, particularly among families with underage children, we find ourselves at an exciting crossroads. Shifts in custody arrangements necessitate not only  adaptability, but resilience from both parents and children alike. Existing international research presents varying degrees of child wellbeing in relation to different family forms. However, the limitations of these studies often preclude a thorough understanding of how children’s wellbeing and custody arrangements transform over time. Furthermore, our comprehension of how family relationships, socio-economic factors, and housing conditions interact and influence child wellbeing remains sparse.


Data Collection:


Rising to this pressing need, FamyCH launches a comprehensive and longitudinal study. This endeavor seeks to follow families with children aged 0-14, offering an in-depth analysis of child wellbeing indicators such as physical and mental health, cognitive, emotional, and relational aspects. Through a nationwide survey involving 1200 families with varying post-separation custody arrangements, we will gather data on parents’ socio-demographic characteristics, relational quality, children’s living and mobility patterns, as well as the mechanisms leading to specific custody agreements. Complementing this, 800 non-separated families will serve as comparison group. Both resident and non-resident biological parents are warmly invited to contribute to this landmark study. Data collection will take place via an online questionnaire at three pivotal points across a two-year timeframe.

This extensive longitudinal study’s findings are set to provide indispensable insights into the evolution of custody arrangements and their effects on child well-being, as well as the social inequalities experienced by children living through parental separation. The practical implications of this study are far-reaching and relevant beyond academia. The results will serve as a solid foundation to refine Swiss policies to better align with the dynamics of custody arrangements. By embracing the multifaceted nature of wellbeing across varied family structures, the study’s findings will not only guide legal procedures, ensuring they are more responsive and flexible to the diverse needs of families but also empower children and families in their post-separation journey. Ultimately, this would minimize the adversities they face and cultivate a more nurturing environment, further underlining our commitment to championing the wellbeing of children and families in Switzerland.



Family relationships are fundamentally linked to child well-being. Yet, when families undergo transitions such as separation or divorce, these relationships change profoundly. In Switzerland, the growing adoption of shared physical custody (SPC) raises crucial questions about the effects of different custody arrangements on children. Existing research offers conflicting views, mainly comparing the well-being of children in ‘intact’ families to those in SPC or lone physical custody (LPC) arrangements. However, there is much more to explore when it comes to the intricate relationships between parents and children in their daily lives. By delving into these dynamics, we can gain a richer understanding of their impact of custody arrangements on child well-being.

We introduce the FamyCH project, where we embark on a captivating daily diary study to examine child well-being across various custody arrangements, all through the lens of relationships. Our research focuses on the complex interplay between the quality of interparental relationship, parent-child relationship, and parenting strategies. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the comprehension of how these relational dynamics shape the overall well-being of children across custody arrangements.

Over 15 days, participating families will offer us a glimpse into their daily experiences using a dedicated application. This innovative research design bypasses traditional study limitations, documenting real-time dynamics within post-separation or divorced families. We will delve into both the challenges and strengths within these relationships, exploring factors that may strain them, such as conflicts, and those that reinforce them, like the quality of the parent-child relationship or constructive conflict resolution between parents. A crucial aspect of our approach is incorporating children’s viewpoints, significantly enriching our understanding of their well-being in different custody arrangements.

By capturing a snapshot of daily family life and embracing the children’s perspectives, our findings aim to inform policymakers, social workers, and families, providing them with a nuanced understanding of the implications of custody arrangements following separation or divorce. Ultimately, this study seeks to empower families with knowledge about the potential impacts of their relational dynamics on their children’s well-being, providing a foundation for improved child well-being outcomes in the context of familial transition. In doing so, our aim is to provide valuable support for families navigating the intricacies of separation or divorce, contributing positively to child well-being in the longer term.

Data Collection:


Sub-project S2 contributes to the Nationwide Survey of Swiss Households (S1). Its unique approach leverages daily diary methods to delve into the daily experiences of families in their day-to-day lives. From the broader nationwide survey, a total of 300 families will be recruited. We will collect data from 100 families that remain together, termed “intact”, and 200 families (100 with shared physical custody or SPC, and 100 with lone physical custody or LPC) that have undergone a divorce or separation within the past year. Studying these recently changed family structures is pivotal, as it provides insights into the dynamics while families are potentially grappling with post-separation challenges.

For a span of 15 days, daily data will be collected from the primary resident parent and a child aged between 7 to 14 years from each participating family. Baseline data from the non-resident parent will also be collected as we aim to study family dynamics with both parents. For families that remain together, both parents will be involved in the daily data collection process. The central themes of these daily entries will revolve around parental interactions, the bond between parent and child, prevailing parenting styles, and the overarching well-being of the child. We will analyse the data using multilevel structural equation modelling accounting for the interdependence of family members. This study will help us better understand what the daily life is like in the different family living arrangements.



A growing body of literature across disciplines has highlighted the importance of the home for children and stressed the question of how they conceive and actually do home after parental separation. Their living arrangements and the consequences for well-being are of special interest for research on housing and architecture since these are still not yet widely recognised in contemporary planning and building nor in the existing housing stock. Built structures still repeat typologies dating back to post-war architecture, which were standardized and designed for the traditional nuclear family model and therefore are poor at providing spaces for contemporary families. Moreover, separation and divorce are accompanied by additional costs for housing and mobility as well as higher demands for the synchronization of family everyday life across different households.

Sub-project S3 on Housing, Architecture and Mobility focuses on socio-spatial practices and housing in physical custody arrangements of families after separation and divorce in Switzerland and how they relate to children’s well-being. Feeling at home, comfort, the continuity of social relationships, questions of identity and belonging, and the potential for conflict related to space all shape children’s well-being and the sustainability of a given physical custody arrangement. The research will examine housing arrangements, practices, and conditions of families after separation and divorce with regard to apartment layout and set-up, quality and emotional atmosphere of rooms, spatial mobility patterns, as well as in terms of cultural, social, and financial resources available and needed.


Data Collection:


Sub-project S3 contributes to the Nationwide Survey of Swiss Households (S1) and applies mainly ethnographic methods to focus on the family’s everyday life and housing practices along different arrangements and typologies. To trace possible changes and improvements, families are studied at two different points, 12 months apart.

The sample will be stratified according to (a) three post-separation family arrangements (lone physical custody, shared physical custody, and bird nesting), (b) socio-economic background, (c) rural and urban contexts, and (d) and three Swiss language regions.

Data will be collected from three entry points: (1) children, (2) biological and social parents, as well as (3) experts of the housing sector and policy makers. The project applies semi-structured and narrative problem-centered interviews, walk along and photo-elicitation interviews, focus groups, mapping methods, and video-supported mobile ethnographic observations. Data will be analyzed according to Grounded Theory methodology with the support of software tools for qualitative data analysis.

Data collection and analysis will be complemented by a two-semester participatory architecture design studio at ETH Zurich, Department of Architecture, focusing on possible design solutions – both in terms of floor plans and interior.