Coparenting and parenting pathways from the couple relationship to children's behavior problems

Parkes, A. , Green, M. and Mitchell, K. (2019) Coparenting and parenting pathways from the couple relationship to children's behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(2), pp. 215-225. (doi: 10.1037/fam0000492) (PMID:30589287) (PMCID:PMC6388648)

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Although an extensive literature has linked couple conflict with the development of children’s externalizing behavior problems, longer term protective effects of positive dimensions of couple relationships on children’s externalizing behavior remain understudied, particularly in relation to underlying mechanisms. Supportiveness in the dyadic couple relationship may enhance mothers’ and fathers’ individual parenting skills and protect against children’s behavior problems, but the contribution of co-parenting (couples’ support for one another’s individual parenting) remains unclear. This observational study investigated associations between couple supportiveness in children’s infancy and middle childhood externalizing problems, exploring pathways involving coparenting and/or mothers’ and fathers’ individual parenting using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS, N = 5779) and the US Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFS, N = 2069). Couple supportiveness was associated with reduced externalizing problems 8-10 years later (standardized betas: MCS:-.13, FFS: -.11, both p <.001). Much of this effect (60% MCS, 55% FFS) was attributable to coparenting and parenting when children were aged 3-5 years. Pathways from couple supportiveness involving negative parenting were stronger than those via positive parenting, pathways via mothers’ parenting were stronger than those via fathers’ parenting, and there were pathways via coparenting alone (without affecting parenting). Pathways involving coparenting were similar in magnitude (MCS), or larger (FFS), than those involving parenting alone. Consistent findings across different population samples suggest that helping parents to support one another in co-parenting, as well as develop their individual parenting skills, may lessen the longer term impact of couple relationship problems during early childhood.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Parkes, Dr Alison and Green, Dr Michael and Mitchell, Professor Kirstin
Authors: Parkes, A., Green, M., and Mitchell, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Journal of Family Psychology
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN (Online):1939-1293
Published Online:27 December 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Family Psychology 33(2):215-225
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727651SPHSU Core Renewal: Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health Research ProgrammeAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU