Academic journal article Family Relations

Postdivorce Coparenting Typologies and Children's Adjustment

Academic journal article Family Relations

Postdivorce Coparenting Typologies and Children's Adjustment

Article excerpt

Although parental divorce can be associated with maladjustment among children and adolescents (see Amato, 2001, 2010; Lansford, 2009), children are expected to demonstrate bet- ter adjustment when their parents develop and maintain a cooperative coparental relationship (Emery, Otto, & O'Donohue, 2005; Whiteside, 1998). In a cooperative postdivorce coparenting relationship, parents put aside their own con- flicts to effectively coordinate their child(ren)'s caregiving. Such an arrangement is expected to reduce children's exposure to interparental conflict, allow children to feel supported and cared for by both of their parents, and increase the contact children have with nonresidential parents (Ahrons, 2007; Sobolewski & King, 2005; Whiteside, 1998). Despite the belief that cooperative postdivorce coparenting benefits children, there have been few direct tests of the associations between postdivorce copar- enting and children's postdivorce adjustment (Sigal, Sandler, Wolshik, & Braver, 2011; but see Amato, Kane, & James, 2011). Therefore, the actual benefits that cooperative postdivorce coparenting has for children's adjustment are relatively unknown. In this study we address this gap by testing if divorced or separated par- ents' perceptions of their children's postdivorce adjustment differ based on parents' reports of their postdivorce coparental relationship.

Children's Adjustment to Parental Divorce

Parental divorce affects children's well-being by introducing strains on family resources and rela- tionships (Amato, 2000; Kelly & Emery, 2003; Lansford, 2009). For example, parental divorce is associated with less effective parenting (Martinez & Forgatch, 2002), parental depres- sion (Lorenz, Wickrama, Conger, & Elder, 2006; Wood, Repetti, & Roesch, 2005), and loss of economic well-being for women and children (Sayer, 2006; Sun & Li, 2002). Previously, researchers have documented that children who have experienced a parental divorce evidence more externalizing behaviors (e.g., behavior problems, substance use; Lansford et al., 2006; Martinez & Forgatch, 2002; Sun, 2001), inter- nalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety and depressive symptoms; Amato, 2001; Cavanagh, 2008; Lansford et al., 2006; Strohschein, 2005), and lower academic achievement (Lansford et al., 2006; Potter, 2010; Sun & Li, 2001). These adjustment problems appear to be more com- mon shortly after parental divorce and become less severe over time (Lansford, 2009). There is substantial variation, however, in how children react to these stressors as well as in the severity of any problems they experience. Most children demonstrate resiliency; fall into normal ranges for psychological and cognitive functioning; and grow up to be healthy, functioning adults (Ahrons, 2007; Amato, 2010; Emery, 1999).

Children's adjustment to parental divorce depends upon several factors including their relationships with their nonresidential parents, exposure to interparental conflict, and the pre- divorce family environment. Children adjust better when nonresidential parents continue to play a supportive and instrumental role in their lives (Amato & Gilberth, 1999). For example, the use of warm, responsive, and effective parenting by nonresidential parents can improve children's behavioral and emo- tional adjustment following divorce (Fabricius & Lucken, 2007; King & Sobolewski, 2006; Martinez & Forgatch, 2002). On the other hand, exposure to new or continued interparental conflict is associated with poorer adjustment (Amato, 2006, 2010; Amato & Afifi, 2006; Fabricius & Luecken, 2007). Finally, the effect of divorce on children's adjustment depends, at least in part, on predivorce family environments (Barber & Demo, 2006; Strohschein, 2005; Sun & Li, 2001). Ending high-conflict marriages, for example, may benefit children, but ending low-conflict marriages may put children at risk (Booth & Amato, 2001). …

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