Family structure, quality of the co-parental relationship, post-separation parenting and children’s emotional wellbeing

Jennifer A. Baxter, Australian Institute of Family Studies
Ruth Weston, Australian Institute of family studies
Lixia Qu, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Children who experience parental divorce are more likely than those in intact families to experience a range of emotional and behavioural adjustment problems, and to perform less well academically. Regardless of whether parents separate, the quality of parental relationship is important to children’s wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, research suggests that pre-separation difficulties, including parental conflict and children’s pre-existing adjustment problems, contribute to the risk of children’s negative outcomes observed post-separation. Few studies on consequences of parental separation for children have exclusively considered young children. This paper takes advantage of a recent Australian child cohort study to examine links between children’s emotional well-being and: (a) family type, along with the quality of the co-parental relationship where children are living in intact families; (b) the frequency of contact with the parent living elsewhere, and (c) the quality of the co-parental relationship post-separation for children who maintain some contact with their non-resident parent.

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Presented in Session 18: The impact of union dynamics on child wellbeing