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Typologies Of Coparenting

Coparenting partnerships exist in all kinds of families. Although most published studies have investigated coparenting dynamics in families headed by heterosexual married or divorced European-American couples, this circumstance is gradually beginning to change. Growing literatures exist on coparenting in mother-grandmother-headed families, step-families, and families headed by gay and lesbian partners (see McHale et al. 2002a, for a more detailed review). However, most empirical typologies of coparenting that have appeared in the literature describe coparenting dynamics in nuclear middle-class families.

Coparenting dynamics have been characterized along dimensions such as whether the children's father is actively engaged as a parent or not ( Johnson 2001; Ogata and Miyashita 2000); whether the coparenting process itself between parenting partners (whomever they may be) is supportive or oppositional (Belsky, Putnam, and Crnic 1996; McHale 1995; Schoppe, Mangelsdorf, and Frosch 2001); whether the family's interactive process allows engagement and enjoyment among all family members (parenting partners included) or whether it is intensively child-focused (McHale et al. 2001b); and whether there is daily, meaningful caregiving involvement by grandparents, extended family, or fictive kin (McHale et al. 2002a).

Although attempts to describe families along multiple coparenting dimensions are relatively uncommon, findings have identified families where the parenting partners are connected and effectively "on the same page"; families where the coparents are nonsupportive and antagonistic; and families where the coparents are disconnected from one another (and where, often, one parent is also disconnected from the child; McHale 1997; McHale et al. 2000b). Beyond these essential types, certain studies hint at other family types, including families whose focus is principally on the child with little positive connection between the adults (McHale et al. 2002b), and families where regular coparenting disputes are balanced by high family warmth and support (McHale 1997; McHale, Kuersten, and Lauretti 1996). Of course, sampling issues in studies of coparenting must always be carefully scrutinized. As James McHale and his colleagues (2002b) caution, statistical techniques can only detect family types actually represented in the researcher's sample; they cannot describe types of families whom, for whatever reason, have not found their way into research studies.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodCoparenting - Typologies Of Coparenting, Coparenting And Children's Adjustment, Factors Contributing To Supportive Or Antagonistic Coparenting Partnerships