Although most agree that co-parenting after divorce provides the best environment for kids, successful co-parenting is often challenged by a variety of gender-specific issues. More than half of America’s courts require some type of education for divorcing parents to help them establish workable co-parenting plans. Nevertheless, successful co-parenting remains difficult.
A new study from the University of Missouri examines co-parenting challenges from a gender standpoint with the goal of improving the ability of divorced parents to work together in supporting their children’s development.
Concerns Affecting Parenting Behavior From Mothers and Fathers
Dr. Lawrence Ganong, a co-chair of the Human Development and Family Science Department, and Dr. Marilyn Coleman, professor emerita in the same department, partnered with doctoral candidate Luke Russell to analyze data collected from “Focus on Kids,” a program developed by the University of Missouri faculty.
“We know that cooperative co-parenting is the best bet for children of divorce,” Russell said. “However, co-parenting plans often can be derailed by parental conflict and concerns. Our question as researchers was how concerns differed between mothers and fathers, so we could use that information to improve co-parental education programs.”
Russell and his colleagues found that fathers’ parenting behaviors were most affected by financial and legal concerns, especially regarding child support payments perceived as unjust or excessive.
They found that mothers’ co-parenting, on the other hand, was more influenced by concerns about the mental instability and parental fitness of their ex-spouses.
Although both parents also reported logistical concerns — for example, the fear that distance and demanding work schedules would prohibit them from visiting their child — these concerns had no impact on the reported behaviors of either parent. “Divorce education programs devote significant energy to addressing logistical barriers… yet, we found these concerns had no impact on behavior or parenting styles,” Russell said.
“However, other perceived barriers, financial for fathers and parental fitness for mothers, did have the potential to impact behaviors, which can make it more difficult to implement workable co-parenting plans.”
How to Address These Concerns
Russell suggests that family professionals could help couples overcome economic and legal concerns through increased career training or teaching mothers to better communicate financial needs. Fathers may be more willing to accept paying child support when they understand how payments benefit their children, and when they themselves are more financially secure.
To counteract mothers’ concerns about parental fitness, Russell suggests that family professionals focus on helping fathers develop the skills they need to be effective parents when they are alone with their children and to take steps to actively demonstrate this capability to their ex-spouse.
To reduce children’s exposure to conflict, however, in some situations it may be necessary to suggest reducing contact between ex-spouses.
Make Co-Parenting after Divorce Simpler With Help From a Therapist in Newport Beach
Co-parenting after divorce can be difficult, but there are ways to make it significantly easier. For example, a great way to put the suggestions made by the researchers into action is to get help from a therapist. Couples therapy can benefit co-parenting couples, or counseling can even be done individually if that works best for your situation. Reaching out and finding out how Jennifer De Francisco can help you is a great way to start.
Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, is a couples therapist in Newport Beach for couples at any stage in their relationship. Her approach provides a safe environment to openly and honestly share thoughts and emotions. Through developing a positive, therapeutic relationship, you and your partner can interpret what is going on, both in your life and in the session, creating a better awareness within your relationship. Contact Jennifer De Francisco by calling (949) 251-8797 or make an appointment online.
The study appears in the journal Family Relations.
Source: University of Missouri