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Factors Contributing To Supportive Or Antagonistic Coparenting Partnerships

Numerous studies of coparenting dynamics in two-parent families have indicated the importance of the marital partnership in supporting cohesive, respectful coparenting relations. Marital-coparenting linkages have been established both concurrently (Belsky, Crnic, and Gable 1995; McHale 1995), and longitudinally (Lewis, Cox, and Owen 1989; Lindahl, Clements, and Markman 1998; McHale and Rasmussen 1998). Data also indicate, perhaps not surprisingly, that features of parents' personalities likewise affect the developing coparental partnership (McHale and Fivaz-Depeursinge 1999). For example, personal attributes such as whether parents remain calm and unfettered, or retaliate when criticized by others, or whether they experience threat and jealousy when those they love also bond strongly with others besides them, may directly affect how they negotiate the challenges of shared parenting. Second, personal strengths or resources (such as self-restraint or flexibility) possessed by one or both parents may help to protect or buffer the coparental relationship from the potentially negative effects of marital discontent. For example, difficult though it may be, a flexible, resilient parent may consciously squelch active anger they are feeling toward the marital partner in order to support that partner's parenting ministrations, in the child's best interests.

Other motives can be important, too. Parents who grew up in families characterized by divisive coparenting relationships may be motivated to rectify this state of affairs in their new families. Unfortunately, as McHale has argued, if two parents each work fervently to create a different, better climate in their new family, but have different visions for how they would like those new and better families to function, they may unwittingly set into motion the same state of affairs in the new family as existed in the old one (Cowan and McHale 1996; McHale, Kuersten, and Lauretti 1996; McHale and Fivaz-Depeursinge 1999).

Additional topics

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