Skip to main content

African American and Latina Adolescent Mothers’ and their Children’s Fathers’ Reports of Coparenting and Child Behavior Problems: Child Gender as a Moderator

Abstract

Coparenting, the way that parents work together in their roles to parent children, has emerged as an important area for prevention and intervention. Though research indicates that low coparenting quality is associated with increased externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in children, the existing literature is not inclusive of families diverse in sociocultural identity and structure. We examined the link between coparenting and externalizing and internalizing behavior problems and tested the moderating effect of child gender on the relationship between coparenting and child behavior problems in two-year-old children of African American and Latina adolescent mothers. One hundred and thirty five parents (69 mothers and 66 fathers) completed self-report measures of coparenting and child behavior problems when their children were two years old. While we did not find support for a direct association between coparenting quality and child behavior problems, child gender did moderate the association between mother’s report of coparenting quality and both externalizing and internalizing behavior problems. High coparenting quality was associated with lower levels of externalizing behavior problems in girls and higher levels of externalizing behavior problems in boys. High quality coparenting was associated with lower levels of internalizing behavior problems in girls, but there was no difference for boys. Though the results for boys were mixed, our findings for girls suggest that high quality coparenting may be a protective factor for the development of both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Implications for future research are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Abidin, R. R., & Brunner, J. F. (1995). Development of a parenting alliance inventory. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 24, 31–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. (2001). ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. Burlington: ASEBA.

    Google Scholar 

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2003). Family pediatrics report of the task force on the family. Pediatrics, 111, 1541–1571.

    Google Scholar 

  • Altenburger, L. E., Lang, S. N., Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Kamp Dush, C. M., & Johnson, S. (2017). Toddlers’differential susceptibility to the effects of coparenting on social–emotional adjustment. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(2), 228–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baril, M. E., Crouter, A. C., & McHale, S. M. (2007). Processes linking adolescent well-being, marital love, and coparenting. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 645–654.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bearss, K. E., & Eyberg, S. (1998). A test of the parenting alliance theory. Early Education and Development, 9, 179–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Belsky, J., Youngblade, L., Rovine, M., & Volling, B. (1991). Patterns of marital change and parent-child interaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53(2), 487–498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Briggs-Gowan, M. J., Carter, A. S., Bosson-Heenan, J., Guyer, A. E., & Horwitz, S. M. (2006). Are infant-toddler social-emotional and behavioral problems transient? Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(7), 849–858.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brock, R. L., & Kochanska, G. (2016). Interparental conflict, children’s security with parents, and long-term risk of internalizing problems: A longitudinal study from ages 2 to 10. Development and Psychopathology, 28, 45–54.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, G. L., Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Neff, C. (2010). Observed and reported supportive coparenting as predictors of infant–mother and infant–father attachment security. Early Child Development and Care, 180, 121–137.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Cassidy, J., Jones, J. D., & Shaver, P. R. (2013). Contributions of attachment theory and research: A framework for future research, translation, and policy. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 1415–1434.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Chaplin, T. M., & Aldao, A. (2013). Gender differences in emotion expression in children: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 735–765.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Barry, J. (2011). Couples’ groups for parents of preschoolers: ten-year outcomes of a randomized trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(2), 240–250.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Crnic, K., & Low, C. (2002). Everyday stresses and parenting. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting, Volume 5 practical issues in parenting (pp. 242–267). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  • Davies, P. T., & Cummings, E. M. (1994). Marital conflict and child adjustment: an emotional security hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 116(3), 387–411.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Eisenberg, N., Taylor, Z. E., Widaman, K. F., & Spinrad, T. L. (2015). Externalizing symptoms, effortful control, and intrusive parenting: A test of bidirectional longitudinal relations during early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 27(4pt1), 953–968.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Essex, M. J., Klein, M. H., Cho, E., & Kraemer, H. C. (2003). Exposure to maternal depression and marital conflict: Gender differences in children’s later mental health symptoms. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 728–737.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feinberg, M. E. (2002). Coparenting and the transition to parenthood: A framework for prevention. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 5, 173–195.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Florsheim, P., Sumida, E., McCann, C., Winstanley, M., Fukui, R., Seefeldt, T., & Moore, D. (2003). The transition to parenthood among young African American and Latino couples: Relational predictors of risk for parental dysfunction. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 65–79.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Futris, T. G., & Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J. (2007). Mothers’ perceptions of barriers, parenting alliance, and adolescent fathers’ engagement with their children. Family Relations, 56, 258–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaskin, D. J., Headen, A. E., & White-Means, S. I. (2005). Racial disparities in health and wealth: The effects of slavery and past discrimination. The Review of Black Political Economy, 32, 95–110.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gee, C. B., & Rhodes, J. E. (2003). Adolescent mothers’ relationship with their children’s biological fathers: Social support, social strain and relationship continuity. Journal of Family Psychology, 17(3), 370–383.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hans, S. L., & Thullen, M. J. (2009). The relational context of adolescent motherhood. In C. H. Zeanah (Ed.), Handbook of infant mental health. 3rd ed. (pp. 214–229). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., Osterman, M. J. K., & Curtin, S. C. (2015). Births: Final Data for 2014. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_12.pdf Accessed 4 May 2016..

  • Holland, A. S., & McElwain, N. L. (2013). Maternal and paternal perceptions of coparenting as a link between marital quality and the parent–toddler relationship. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 117–126.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobvitz, D., Hazen, N., Curran, M., & Hitchens, K. (2004). Observations of early triadic family interactions:Boundary disturbances in the family predict symptoms of depression, anxiety, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in middle childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 577–592.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, V. K., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (1999). Children’s classroom behavior: The unique contribution of family organization. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 355–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, D. J., Shaffer, A., Forehand, R., Brody, G., & Armistead, L. P. (2003). Coparent conflict in single mother headed African American families: Do parenting skills serve as a mediator or moderator of child psychosocial adjustment? Behavior Therapy, 34, 259–272.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kamp Dush, C. M., Kotila, L. E., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2011). Predictors of supportive coparenting after relationship dissolution among at-risk parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(3), 356–365.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Koblinsky, S. A., Kuvalanka, K. A., & Randolph, S. M. (2006). Social skills and behavior problems of urban, African American preschoolers: role of parenting practices, family conflict, and maternal depression. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76, 554–563.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kolak, A. M., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2008). Family-level coparenting processes and child gender as moderators of family stress and toddler adjustment. Infant and Child Development, 17, 617–638.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Leadbeater, B. J., Bishop, S. J., & Raver, C. C. (1996). Quality of mother–toddler interactions, maternal depressive symptoms, and behavior problems in preschoolers of adolescent mothers. Developmental Psychology, 32, 280–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, Y., Fagan, J., & Chen, W. Y. (2012). Do late adolescent fathers have more depressive symptoms than older fathers? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(10), 1366–1381.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lequerica, M., & Hermosa, B. (1995). Maternal reports of behavior problems in preschool Hispanic children: an exploratory study in preventive pediatrics. Journal of the National Medical Association, 87, 861–868.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Letourneau, N. L., Stewart, M. J., & Barnfather, A. K. (2004). Adolescent mothers: Support needs, resources, and support-education interventions. Journal of Adolescent Health, 35(6), 509–525.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lewin, A., Hodgkinson, S., Waters, D. M., Prempeh, H. A., Beers, L. S., & Feinberg, M. E. (2015). Strengthening positive coparenting in teen parents: a cultural adaptation of an evidence-based intervention. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 36(3), 139–154.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lewin, A., Mitchell, S. J., Beers, L. S., Feinberg, M. E., & Minkovitz, C. S. (2012). Coparenting in teen mothers and their children’s fathers: Evidence from the early childhood longitudinal study–birth cohort. Academic Pediatrics, 12(6), 539–545.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Manning, W. D., & Cohen, J. A. (2015). Teenage cohabitation, marriage, and childbearing. Population Research and Policy Review, 34, 161–177.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Margolin, G., Gordis, E. B., & John, R. S. (2001). Coparenting: a link between marital conflict and parenting in two parent families. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 3–21.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • McHale, J. P., Johnson, D., & Sinclair, R. (1999). Family dynamics, preschoolers’ family representations, and preschool peer relationships. Early Education and Development, 10, 373–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McHale, J. P., Rao, N., & Krasnow, A. D. (2000). Constructing family climates: Chinese mothers’ reports of their co-parenting behaviour and preschoolers’ adaptation. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24, 111–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McHale, J. P., & Rasmussen, J. L. (1998). Coparental and family group-level dynamics during infancy: Early family precursors of child and family functioning during preschool. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 39–59.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • McHale, J. P., Salman‐Engin, S., & Coovert, M. D. (2015). Improvements in unmarried African American parents’ rapport, communication, and problem‐solving following a prenatal coparenting intervention. Family Process, 54, 619–629.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mehta, N. K., Lee, H., & Ylitalo, K. R. (2013). Child health in the United States: Recent trends in racial/ethnic disparities. Social Science & Medicine, 95, 6–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mendez, J. L., Fantuzzo, J., & Cicchetti, D. (2002). Profiles of social competence among low-income African American preschool children. Child Development, 73, 1085–1101.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Minuchin, P. (1985). Families and individual development: Provocations from the field of family therapy. Child Development, 56(2), 289–302.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mollborn, S., & Morningstar, E. (2009). Investigating the relationship between teenage childbearing and psychological distress using longitudinal evidence. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(3), 310–326.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Murphy, S. E., Jacobvitz, D. B., & Hazen, N. L. (2016). What’s so bad about competitive coparenting? Family-level predictors of children’s externalizing symptoms. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(5), 1684–1690.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Center for Toddlers and Families. (2017). Diagnostic classification: 0-5™. Diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood. Washington, DC: National Center for Toddlers and Families.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pauli‐Pott, U., Haverkock, A., Pott, W., & Beckmann, D. (2007). Negative emotionality, attachment quality, and behavior problems in early childhood. Infant Mental Health Journal, 28, 39–53.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pinzon, J. L., Jones, V. F., Blythe, M. J., Adelman, W. P., Breuner, C. C., Levine, D. A., & Donoghue, E. (2012). Care of adolescent parents and their children. Pediatrics, 130, 1743–1756.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Price, S. K., El-Khoury, D., & Wonnum, S. (2014). Adolescent pregnancy in the United States. International Handbook of Adolescent Pregnancy (pp. 661–681). New York: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2017). Enhancing father involvement in low‐income families: A couples group approach to preventive intervention. Child Development, 88(2), 398–407.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schoppe, S. J., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Frosch, C. A. (2001). Coparenting, family process, and family structure: implications for preschoolers’ externalizing behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 526–545.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Mangelsdorf, S. C., Frosch, C. A., & McHale, J. L. (2004). Associations between coparenting and marital behavior from infancy to the preschool years. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 194–207.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, C. L., Calkins, S. D., Keane, S. P., Anastopoulos, A. D., & Shelton, T. L. (2004). Predicting stability and change in toddler behavior problems: Contributions of maternal behavior and child gender. Developmental Psychology, 40(1), 29–42.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Najarian, M., Snow, K., Lennon, J., Kinsey, S., & Mulligan, G. (2007). Early childhood longitudinal study, birth cohort (ECLS-B). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers’ ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5), 1196–1212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teubert, D., & Pinquart, M. (2010). The association between coparenting and child adjustment: A meta analysis. Parenting: Science and Practice, 10, 286–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tomblin, J. B., Zhang, X., Buckwalter, P., & Catts, H. (2000). The association of reading disability, behavioral disorders, and language impairment among second-grade children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 473–482.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Umemura, T., Christopher, C., Mann, T., Jacobvitz, D., & Hazen, N. (2015). Coparenting problems at 2 years predict 7-year-old children’s psychological problems: Focusing on gender differences. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 46, 981–996.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Varga, C. M., Gee, C. B., Rivera, L., & Reyes, C. X. (2014). Coparenting mediates the association between relationship quality and father involvement. Youth & Society, 49(5), 588–609.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vega, W. A., Rodriguez, M. A., & Gruskin, E. (2009). Health disparities in the Latino population. Epidemiologic Reviews, 31, 99–112.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Wilhelm, K. (2006). From nosology to global burden. In C. L. M. Keys & S. H. Goodman (Eds.), A handbook for the social, behavioral, and biomedical Science: Women and depression (pp. 3–21). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

  • Young, A. Y., & Holcomb, P. A. (2007). Voices of young fathers: The partners for fragile families demonstration projects. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/PFF/voices/index.htm.

Download references

Author Contributions

R.M.: Wrote the manuscript, conducted data analyses; C.G.: Principal investigator of the study, provided material support for all aspects of this study, collaborated on study design and on writing and editing of the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by NIMH grant 5K01MH72504.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel A. Mack.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board of George Washington University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mack, R.A., Gee, C.B. African American and Latina Adolescent Mothers’ and their Children’s Fathers’ Reports of Coparenting and Child Behavior Problems: Child Gender as a Moderator. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2507–2518 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1103-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1103-7

Keywords

  • Coparenting
  • Adolescent parents
  • Minority parents
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Internalizing behavior