Study Examines Aspects of Family Relationships That May Affect Children's Disruptive Behavior
December 5, 2016—A new study has examined the interaction between coparenting and coercive parenting in predicting children's disruptive behaviour.
Coparenting describes the way in which adults work together in their role as parents. For example, high quality coparenting may include expressions of warmth between parents during interactions with the child, shared child-rearing values, and actions that support and extend a coparent's parenting efforts. Lower quality coparenting may involve criticism between parents, or actions that thwart or undermine a partner's parenting attempts. Coercive parenting represents a negative discipline strategy characterised by hitting, shouting, and scolding.
The study of 106 families with mother and father both resident found that the influence of high quality coparenting, previously assumed to be only beneficial, may be rather more complex.
Mothers' perceptions of coparenting quality did moderate the association between overall coercive parenting and children's disruptive behaviour development during school transition—but the direction of the effect was striking. Far from buffering children against mothers' coerciveness as the authors expected, when mothers rated their coparenting as high quality the toxicity of her coercive parenting for children's disruptive behaviour was intensified. The researchers note that, accounting for perceived marital quality, behavioural stability, and fathers’ perceptions, it was only in the context of perceived higher quality coparenting that there wasa positive association between mother-reported overall coercive parenting and children's disruptive behaviour at follow-up.
When combined with highly coercive parenting, maternal perceptions of high quality coparenting may be detrimental for children's adjustment.
"For mothers using coercive parenting strategies, having a partner who supports their parenting might not be such a good idea for their children's outcomes," said Dr. Bonamy Oliver, senior author of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry study. "For these mothers, perceptions of 'low quality' coparenting could mean having a coparent who undermines, or even stops their coercive strategies, actively failing to sanction their interpersonal aggression—so low quality coparenting in these families could be protective for children's behavioural development, both by showing children that it's not okay to act that way and by reducing their exposure. It's not to say that low quality coparenting is optimal in most circumstances, but it does suggest that moves to improve coparenting in families should be careful to consider the parenting in the home at the same time."
“A harsh parenting team? Maternal reports of coparenting and coercive parenting interact in association with children's disruptive behavior,” Rachel M. Latham, Katharine M. Mark and Bonamy R. Oliver. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Available online : 5 DEC 2016, DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12665.