What predicts successful co-parenting after parents separate?

Today, 42% of marriages are statistically likely to end in divorce. This is saddening as many of these divorces will involve children, impacting their lives also. More often than not divorces end with the children splitting their time between the parents, unless sole custody is given to one of the parents. This could involve every second weekend at their dads, or every other day. Whatever the arrangement is there WILL be disruption, this is unavoidable – it’s just how this is dealt with. Another element that will disrupt the children’s routine is a step-parent. Collaboration is key between the parents, biological or not, to keep up to date with the children’s progress but to also ascertain that they are all on the same page and that the child is being told the same thing by all parents.

Co-parenting or coparenting describes a parenting situation where the parents are not in a marriage, cohabitation, or romantic relationship with one another.

Interestingly, children of parents who argue and are unhappy but don’t divorce are actually worse of developmentally than children of parents who do divorce. This would be interesting for those families who stay together for the children as more often than not it is actually doing more damage to the children to see their parents arguing then it is to see them apart.

Waller, (2012) examined the role that a father may have in a co-parenting situation as this is the most damaged relationship to the children with divorce. They found that as long as a co-operative co-parenting style was established then the quality and the quantity of parental involvement was better than in disengaged or conflicting situations. This has huge implications for the way that parents decide on a successful, co-operative co-parenting situation and how they would do this to ensure that both the mother and father to be involved. Risk factors to a co-operative relationship are evident

  • when unmarried parents have separated after the birth
  • never together as a couple
  • when fathers are unemployed or have other risk factors
  • when the child has a more difficult temperament
  • when parents have fewer children together.

To explore this, Jamison, (2014) looked extensively into shared custody of children after divorce and the relationship between the parents. Jamison (2014) conducted in-depth interviews from 47 divorced parents, both mother and the father. The analysis revealed that the parents needed to focus on both intra-personal changes, successful communication with the ex-partner, but also behavioural changes, avoiding conflict. Further ways to change would be to reorganise time, reorganise money, and to adjust their communication.

The researchers describe the following characteristics as the most beneficial for successful co-parenting:

  • focusing on children
  • regulating their emotional responses
  • choosing battles about time and money

were more effective than those who had difficulty letting go of divorce anger or engaged in frequent conflicts. It was found that effective co-parents choose carefully when to engage a conflict and when to give in.

So with these strategies perhaps co-parenting can become easier and therefore more beneficial for the parents but also more importantly for the children.


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