Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Impact of Financial and Employment Status on the Co-Parenting of Divorcing Couples in Israel

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Impact of Financial and Employment Status on the Co-Parenting of Divorcing Couples in Israel

Article excerpt

Abstract

The study examines the association between the financial and employment status of 71 Israeli couples in the process of divorce and their co-parenting, as measured by participation in their children's lives, communication about their children, consideration for the other parent's childcare needs, and inter-spousal tension and hostility. Its findings show that each parent's self-reported financial status was associated with both their own and the other parent's co- parenting. Most predominantly, its findings point to the differential effects financial status and employment have on divorcing mothers and fathers. These findings are discussed in relation to the "gender contract" still prevalent among many parental units in Israel. Conclusions emphasizing the importance of relating to financial issues during the divorce process itself are presented, alongside their derivative implications for practitioners and policy makers.

Key words: financial status; employment; divorcing couple; co-parenting; gender contract

INTRODUCTION

Literature on divorce consistently reflects its differential effects on women and men, both financially and emotionally: Following divorce, women tend to experience more severe and longer lasting financial losses than men (e.g., Gadalla, 2009; Jansen, Mortelmans, & Snoeckx, 2009), as well as more immediate emotional distress (e.g., Amato, 2000; Cantor & Slater, 1995). Some studies link these differential outcomes to gender differences in post-divorce adjustment. In most cases, mothers retain custody of and primary responsibility for the children, hence shouldering a greater financial burden than before the divorce, alongside more emotional difficulties and a more limited ability to spend much time working outside the home. Existing literature tells us little, however, about how the financial status of couples in the midst of the divorce process affects their parenting. This paper strives to shed light on this scarcely examined subject.

The divorcing period

The divorcing period, roughly defined for the purpose of this article as starting when the issue of dismantling the marriage is raised and ending with legal divorce, may be a long and trying time that is highly stressful for parents and children alike (e.g., Emery, 1994). It is a period of great uncertainty, when many spouses must make a myriad of decisions while coping with the pain of separation and a multitude of other losses, feelings of failure and guilt, sadness and anxiety, anger and ambivalence. It is also a time when individuals begin the difficult psychological task of separating their spousal role from their parental role so that they can continue to parent jointly even when they cease to be husband and wife (Madden-Derdich, Leonard, & Christopher, 1999). It is widely held that the way in which a couple manages its breakup may affect post-divorce adjustment and the ability to co-parent beneficially (e.g., Fischer, DeGraaf, & Kalmijn, 2005).

Not surprisingly, a considerable body of literature deals with the different aspects and problems accompanying the divorcing period. Such literature covers the stresses of the period and the challenges it poses (e.g., Granvold, 2000a, 2000b), the conflict that characterizes it among many couples, and couples' reasons for divorcing (e.g., Amato & Previti, 2003; Gigy & Kelly, 1992). Regretfully, most of the literature on the divorcing process itself is solely descriptive. Empirical literature in this field is sparse and focuses mainly on high conflict families (e.g., Jaffe, Johnston, Crooks, & Bala, 2008) or on the impact of specific features of the divorce process (e.g., duration of the legal process) on post-divorce adjustment (e.g., Cohen, Savaya, & Tall, 2007). Bay and Braver's (1990) study of the impact of perceived control over the divorce settlement process on synchronic interparental conflict is a rare exception to this custom. …

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