Deeper Into Divorce: Using Actor-Partner Analyses to Explore Systemic Differences in Coparenting Conflict Following Custody Dispute Resolution

David A Sbarra, Robert E. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Divorce is an inherently interpersonal experience, yet too often adults' reactions to marital dissolution are investigated as intrapersonal experiences that unfold outside of the relational context in which they exist. This article examines systemic patterns of interpersonal influence between divorced parents who were randomly assigned to either mediate or litigate a child custody dispute in the mid-1980s. Reports of coparenting conflict and nonacceptance of the divorce were assessed 5 weeks after the dispute settlement, 13 months after the settlement, and then again 12 years later. One hundred nine (N = 109) parents provided data over this 12-year period. Fathers reported the highest initial levels of conflict when their ex-partners were more accepting of the divorce. Mediation parents reported decreases in coparenting conflict in the year after dispute settlement, whereas litigation parents reported increases in conflict. Litigation parents evidenced the greatest long-term increases and decreases in coparenting conflict. Mediation is a potent force for reducing postdivorce conflict, and this article highlights the usefulness of adopting a systemic lens for understanding the long-term correlates of marital dissolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Fingerprint

Dissent and Disputes
Divorce
Parents
Jurisprudence
Child Custody
Fathers
Lenses
Conflict (Psychology)

Keywords

  • actor-partner interdependence model
  • child custody mediation
  • coparenting conflict
  • divorce
  • emotional adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

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abstract = "Divorce is an inherently interpersonal experience, yet too often adults' reactions to marital dissolution are investigated as intrapersonal experiences that unfold outside of the relational context in which they exist. This article examines systemic patterns of interpersonal influence between divorced parents who were randomly assigned to either mediate or litigate a child custody dispute in the mid-1980s. Reports of coparenting conflict and nonacceptance of the divorce were assessed 5 weeks after the dispute settlement, 13 months after the settlement, and then again 12 years later. One hundred nine (N = 109) parents provided data over this 12-year period. Fathers reported the highest initial levels of conflict when their ex-partners were more accepting of the divorce. Mediation parents reported decreases in coparenting conflict in the year after dispute settlement, whereas litigation parents reported increases in conflict. Litigation parents evidenced the greatest long-term increases and decreases in coparenting conflict. Mediation is a potent force for reducing postdivorce conflict, and this article highlights the usefulness of adopting a systemic lens for understanding the long-term correlates of marital dissolution.",
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