Coparenting and Children’s Disruptive Behavior: Interacting Processes for Parenting Sense of Competence

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Parenting sense of competence (PSOC) is a critical aspect of parental adjustment that may be undermined by children’s disruptive behavior. Interparental relationships have been shown to shape how parents react and respond to their children’s characteristics, but little is known about the role of parenting teamwork, known as ‘coparenting.’ We examined mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of children’s disruptive behavior and the quality of coparenting, as well as their interaction in association with PSOC. Mothers and fathers from 108 ‘intact’ families participating in the Twins, Family, and Behavior (TFaB) Study reported on their children’s disruptive behavior, coparenting and PSOC via postal questionnaire (Mchild age = 6 years, SDchild age = 6.12 months). Dyadic multilevel analyses revealed that higher levels of children’s disruptive behavior related to lower levels of parents’ PSOC and perceptions of higher-quality coparenting were associated with higher PSOC. Notably, and as hypothesized, there was a significant interaction between coparenting and children’s disruptive behavior such that perceptions of high quality coparenting buffered PSOC from its negative association with children’s disruptive behavior. High-quality coparenting is an important aspect of family functioning that may protect the PSOC of parents dealing with high levels of children’s disruptive behavior.

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