Does technology improve postdivorce relationships?


One of the major challenges divorce parents face is how to communicate effectively post-split, without major arguments. Self-help guides and divorced parenting programs regularly include strategies and suggestions about how to maintain a cordial working relationship with a former spouse. Why? Because one of the most consistent findings about what facilitates children’s adjustment post-divorce is the degree to which former partners limit conflict.

So it is not surprising that scientists have begun to examine whether new electronic communication tools can be a help or hindrance to parents working out their post-divorce relationships. Early work by Aimee Miller suggests that in some cases, e-mail may help faciilate post-divorce communication, but no one has taken an in-depth look at all of the available communication tools until now.

A team of scientists at the University of Missouri led by Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman studied a group of 49 parents (mostly mothers) after their divorce to determine how divorced parents use communication technologies to manage their coparenting. This qualitative study involved 60 to 90 minute interviews followed by detailed coding methods to extract common themes.

The authors conclude that “communication technologies… make boundary maintenance both easier and more challenging. They are unequivocally neither boon nor bane to divorced co-parents.” For the most part, it seems that the technology tools matter relatively little. Parents who are trying to work on co-parenting can use these tools to enhance their communication and parenting skills. On the other hand, parents who are having difficulty co-parenting together after divorce may use these tools to harass, control and mislead the other parent. The big challenge that remains for divorced parents is not what technology to use to communicate, but how to find a way to work together to raise their children.

For more see Huffington Post….

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Do Teenagers Cause Divorce?


Every parent with teens has probably found themselves in a fight over what to do about their teenager, but could the behavior the teenager in your family result in you getting a divorce?  Turns out this may be the case.  There is a lot of scientific evidence that has demonstrated that children influence parents and visa versa.  When infants smile, their parents are more likely to continue to play or talk with them.  And the play and talk encourage more smiling and laughter from babies.  Positive emotions and behaviors in one member of the family seem to trigger positive responses in other members of the family.  Sometimes we forget that this also works for negative emotions and behaviors as well.

Mary Julia Moore and Cheryl Buehler studied a group of middle school children over a 4-year period through early adolescence to examine the ways in which their behavior influenced the behavior of their parents.  In particular, they were interested in the ways that problem behaviors may influence their parents’ likelihood of divorce.  The scientists were interested in testing the pathway through which troublesome adolescent behavior may undermine the parents’ marriage.  They hypothesize that when teenagers have trouble, this undermines parents’ feelings of effectiveness in parenting which may influence mothers or fathers to be less supportive to each other in trying to deal with the problem behavior.  This hypothesis makes sense based on other scientific evidence and it all makes commonsense.  If a parents feels like they are not getting their partner’s support in dealing with their teen challenging behavior, this seems likely to trigger feelings of resentment and overall distress.  All of which might lead to questions about one’s marriage.

The scientist measured adolescents’ problem behavior when they were in the 6th grade.  They measured both antisocial and hostile behaviors as well as behaviors such as depression.  Both mothers and fathers were asked questions about whether they had thought about divorce and other questions to get a sense of their divorce proneness and questions about their sense of effectiveness as a parent.  The analyses examined whether adolescent behaviors predicted parents’ divorce proneness 4 years later.  The sample in this study was primarily White and had some college education.  Some caution should be noted that these findings may not apply to all types of families.

As the scientists had expected, adolescents’ problem behaviors had a significant effect on the couple’s divorce proneness. This effect appears to be primarily through damage to mothers’ and fathers’ feelings about their parenting abilities. This is especially true for fathers; fathers who have difficulty managing their teen’s behavior feel badly and may give up trying to be a parent. The scientists also found that mothers and fathers’ feelings of effectiveness as parents influenced each other as well; when one parent was feeling less effective, the other, more effective parent begin thinking about divorce. It seems like when one parent gives up on trying to help manage the difficult behavior, the other parent perceives this as a lack of support. This lack of support seems to damage the marital relationship.  

These findings remind us of the complexity of family relationships.  All members of the family have an influence on each other.  This can run in a positive direction or in a negative direction.  These findings remind parents who are having difficulty with their children’s challenging behaviors to seek help with managing these behaviors.  There are many effective parenting self-help books and programs that can be of assistance in dealing with children and there are many professionals who can help.