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Divorced Couples Relationship can Improve with Co-Parenting

Update Date: Aug 16, 2012 01:40 PM EDT
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Divorce is a sadly common practice in the U.S. According to reports, if rates continue as they are it could be as common as 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce. Perhaps the most tragic of broken unions are the ones that involve children. However, divorced couples with children have the potential to have civil and even peaceful relationships when both individuals focus directly on the children.

New research conducted at the University of Missouri offers hope for divorced parents and suggests hostile relationships can improve when ex-spouses set aside their differences and focus on their children's needs.

"Most people falsely believe that, when people get divorced, they'll continue to fight, to be hostile," said Marilyn Coleman, Curators' Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at MU. "We found in our study that's not always true. Some couples get along from the very beginning, and, for about half of the women we interviewed, the couples whose relationships started badly improved over time."

Coleman and colleagues interviewed 20 women who shared custody with ex-partners. Half reported having contentious relationships with their ex-partners and the other half reported their relationshiop to be civil and even amicable. The reason being?

"To me, it's almost as if the parents in the bad-to-better relationships matured," Coleman said. "Mostly, it's because the parents began focusing on their children. The parents saw how upset their arguments made their kids, so they decided to put their differences aside and focus on what was best for the children."

Parents reviewed to be generally responsible and, even more telling, who were not suffering financial difficulties, were able to get along better with their ex-spouses.

While divorce in itself can have effects to a child's emotional development, a hostile relationship between partners can be detrimental.

Coleman advises, even to married couples, to never let your children see you argue. Leave the room, take a walk but do not let on to the children that there is a problem."If kids go through their parents' divorce, they've lost some access to both parents. If the parental fighting continues, the children have not only lost access, they're still involved in the conflict-in the ugliness-and it harms the kids."

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