Mothers' and Fathers' Coparenting: Structure, Stability, and Relations with Family Functioning




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Coparenting has been found to benefit many aspects of family life, but its study has generally been limited to the transition to parenthood with little attention given to coparenting during the time from toddlerhood to preschool (i.e., 2 to 4 years of age, a time when first-time parents become more experienced in their parenting roles with a particular child and children experiences many changes in physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development). The overall goal of the present study was to assess coparenting longitudinally when children were 2, 3, and 4 years old, and to explore its associations with two aspects of family functioning: coparents’ relationship satisfaction and children’s externalizing behaviors. Two studies were conducted. The first study utilized data obtained from the Family Transitions Project, a multigenerational study of midwestern families, to create and validate measures of coparenting agreement and coparenting involvement. Utilizing the same data set, the second study explored changes in coparenting agreement and involvement over time, the interdependence of parental reports of coparenting, and coparenting’s relations to family functioning. The findings indicated that coparenting agreement and involvement decreased slightly from child ages 2 to 4 years old. More specifically, mothers’ reports of coparenting agreement decreased over time and both parents’ reports of coparenting involvement decreased over time. There was no evidence of partner effects for coparenting agreement or involvement. There was also no evidence of partner effects between coparenting agreement or involvement and relationship satisfaction or children’s externalizing behaviors. In contrast, parents’ reports of relationship satisfaction predicted their own reports of coparenting involvement a year later. This study serves as a first step towards understanding coparenting across the toddlerhood and preschool years and provides some insights regarding the possible changes in coparenting that will occur during this time.



Parenting, Parent and child, Joint custody of children, Families, Toddlers, Preschool children, Marital quality, Early childhood education -- Parent participation


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