Divorce, Co-Parenting and Kids


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — About one in three children growing up in the United States is growing up in a single family home. And among divorced couples with young children, moms are still more likely to have custody of kids after a split. Now, new research supports the theory that when moms and dads maintain a better co-parenting relationship, kids may be less likely to act out.

For many families, dinner can be hectic. It’s no exception for Karina Feise, a working mother of two.

Meal prep gives her time to catch up with whichever teen is home from school, sports or work.

Feise told Ivanhoe, “They have teenager stuff, as any other kid, but would they ever say this is because my parents were divorced? I never hear them telling me that.”

Elizabeth Karberg, PhD, a developmental scientist at the University of Maryland and her colleagues studied father involvement, new romantic partners and the sharing of parenting responsibilities, after divorce. Using data from 1,500 families, the social scientists examined whether the quality of co-parenting explains why instability is stressful for kids.

“When a new partner moves into the home, it’s worse for the kids’ outcomes, in part because it makes the co-parenting relationship with the biological father worse,” explained Karberg.

In cases where there was not a good co-parenting arrangement, children externalized problem behaviors, like aggression and hyperactivity. When Feise and her ex broke up, she admitted she was very bitter.

“But after really thinking about it, I thought the best way to handle the situation was to have a good relationship for the sake of the children,” said Feise.

Karberg suggests parents find a way to communicate with each other. Don’t talk about the other parent negatively in front of children. Keep a united front. It didn’t happen right away, but Feise said she and her ex have forged a good relationship for their children.

Feise detailed, “He’s now married. I’m married. We all try to do something together once a year for them.”

Karberg said the research also has implications for fatherhood programs. Many programs help fathers with employment and maintaining relationships with children, but Karberg said it’s also important to learn effective communication with an ex-partner or spouse to promote good co-parenting.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.