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When fathers insist on coparenting, the Relationship Can Suffer

Posted Jan 26 2011 9:09pm
Maybe now women who are primary caregivers can gain the respect of the court during divorce proceedings. Research indicates that parents of preschoolers who share caregiving duties are likely to experience more conflict than those in which the mother is the primary caregiver, according to researchers at Ohio State University. With this clinical data that  recognizes the benefits to the child when mothers retain the caretaking responsibility when families are faced with divorce. Whatever the caretaking roles that were in place prior to the separation should not have to shift.
        Simply put, this study points to a stronger, more supportive coparenting relationship when the father spends more time playing with the child, and leaves the caregiving to the mother. When the father participates more in caregiving, like preparing meals or giving baths, there is more undermining behavior toward each other.

        “The results were unexpected, and may be disappointing for people who believe mothers and fathers should share equally in the caregiving duties for their children,” says Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, PhD, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University. But, the study allows that there is not just one way to share parenting duties.

        For some families, a father’s involvement in caregiving may not the best decision since the result may be higher conflict, For the sake of young children, it is important to appreciate that equal coparenting may not be beneficial, and should not be considered the only option for all couples, according to Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan.

The study was designed to test how a father’s involvement in child caregiving affected the couple’s co-parenting relationship -- how parents interact together while parenting their child. Assigned tasks that required the guidance of both parents, allowed the researchers to assess whether the parents supported each other or undermined each other in their co-parenting, Schoppe-Sullivan said.

       In general, fathers who viewed themselves as more playful were more supportive coparents; conversely, among couples in which fathers participated in caregiving tasks, there was a lower levels of supportive coparenting one year later. The study appears in the January 2011 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology .


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