The Trajectory of Coparenting Relationship Quality Across Early Adolescence: Family, Community, and Parent Gender Influences

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Abstract

This study examined longitudinal change in coparenting support and conflict for married parents during their child’s adolescence, and the links between financial, work, and community factors and coparenting support and conflict. We utilized an ecological perspective, drawing on five waves of data from 635 dual-earner families with adolescents (M = 11.29, SD = .48 years old at Time 1). Applying a multilevel modeling approach and using reports from mothers and fathers we examined: (a) change in coparenting support and conflict over six years; (b) correlated change in contextual factors (financial strain, work hours and satisfaction, and community cohesion) with change in coparenting; and (c) differences in associations for mothers versus fathers. Findings revealed a decline over six years in perceptions of partner coparenting support for mothers and fathers, but no significant change in perceived coparenting conflict. Changes in financial strain, work characteristics, and community cohesion were associated with change in coparenting support and conflict in expected directions; interactions by parent gender suggest that mothers’ reports of coparenting quality are more closely linked to some contextual influences than fathers’ reports. Discussion centers on the implications of social contexts for coparenting at a critical period in youth development.

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