Title

Predictors of Coparenting: Infant Temperament, Infant Gender, and Hostile-Reactive Parenting

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology/Clinical

First Advisor

Annette Mahoney (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Jacqueline Roe (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kenneth Pargament (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Alfred DeMaris (Committee Member)

Abstract

The current study examined linkages between infant characteristics and the coparenting relationship over the first year of parenthood by using both parent reports of coparenting dynamics and observations of coparenting behavior during triadic family interactions. Coparenting dimensions of interest included coparenting support and coparenting undermining between parents.

The first primary question concerned longitudinal associations between infant temperament, including fussiness, unpredictability, unadaptability, and dullness, and coparenting dynamics. A second question examined links between infant gender and coparenting dimensions. A third aim was to explore possible links between hostile-reactive parenting and coparenting over the first year of life as well as potential moderating effects of hostile-reactive parenting on the association between infant temperament and coparenting. This study also examined the potential moderating influence of infant gender on the relation between infant temperament and coparenting.

This study contributes to the literature by being the first to examine associations between infant temperament and coparenting longitudinally, and it is the only study to cast light on the bidirectional links between infant temperament and coparenting over the first year of parenthood. Higher ratings of infant dullness at 3 months predicted higher ratings of mother-to-father support at 1 year, and higher ratings of infant unadaptability predicted higher ratings of mother-to-father undermining at 1 year, suggesting that early infant characteristics may influence how smoothly new parents transition into working together to manage their baby. Further, higher paternal reports of mother-to-father coparenting support at 3 months were linked to lower paternal ratings of infant unadaptability at 1 year indicating that ample support between parents early in the coparenting relationship may positively impact infant outcomes. Interestingly, in families of girls, fathers displayed more unsupportive coparenting behaviors toward mothers during triadic interactions. Contrary to expectations, infant gender did not moderate links between infant temperament and coparenting for either parent. Additionally, hostile-reactive parenting did not have any direct or moderating effects on coparenting for either parent.

The current study contributes to the coparenting literature by illuminating the bidirectional links between infant temperament and coparenting over the first year. In addition to observing coparenting behavior during triadic interactions, there appears to be value in asking parents to report on their own coparenting relationships, including their perceptions of support and undermining from their spouse. This study also speaks to the issue of collecting data from both parents rather than mothers alone and provides support for the notion that fathers represent a key element of the family triad as early as infancy.