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.
- actor-partner interdependence model
- child custody mediation
- coparenting conflict
- emotional adjustment
ASJC Scopus subject areas