Most observers agree that working out a co-parenting plan cooperatively after a divorce provides the best scenario for children’s well-being. Because of this, more than 50% of divorce courts in the U.S. mandate co-parenting education for divorcing spouses.
A recent study from the University of Missouri, however, indicates that gender plays a large role in individual parental concerns. Educational programs need to be aware of the gender differences to integrate the different concerns into their programs and to try to ensure optimal harmony between spouses.
Gender Differences Need to be Taken into Account During Counseling
The study found that men are much more concerned than women with the financial and legal impact of divorce. They may, for example, see child support payments as unfair or too large. Women, on the other hand, focus much more on the perceived mental instability of their partners and their parenting skills.
Educational programs on co-parenting will likely work much better if these gender differences are taken into account. The better the co-parenting plan works, the more likely it is to serve the best needs of the child.
Existing educational programs often focus on logistical challenges in co-parenting. However, the study implies that such a focus may be misplaced. While both spouses in the study said they were concerned about logistical issues (when and where a child is picked up vis-à-vis demanding work schedules, for example), they indicated it did not influence their behavior in parenting the children.
The study suggested that programs could integrate these economic, legal, and psychological concerns into divorce counseling and programs. Both men and women, for example, might receive career training and financial training. Mothers could develop enhanced earning capacity, and fathers might gain an enhanced understanding of where their child support payments are going. Men might receive training in parenting skills, and in communicating their enhanced competency to their spouses.
The emphasis in all counseling and training programs needs to be avoidance of conflict and promotion of harmony for a co-parenting plan to be effective. A co-parenting plan can best serve the needs of the child if it works with the parents, and doesn’t leave room for conflict.
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Additional “co-parenting after divorce” resources
- McHale, James, Jason Baker, and Heidi Liss Radunovich. “When People Parent Together: Let’s Talk About Coparenting.” Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension. Publication #FCS2277.
- Sorce, Roseann. “MU Family Researchers Offer Suggestions to Improve Co-Parenting Plans After Divorce.”