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Longitudinal Linkages Between Coparenting and Subsequent Friendship Quality in Middle Childhood

Abstract

Children who have a good relationship with a best friend experience better social and emotional adjustment, making it critical to identify factors that foster the development of high-quality friendships. We examined whether the quality of the coparenting relationship, as perceived by each parent in middle childhood, predicted children’s perceptions of the quality of their best friendship two years later. Eighty-eight families (50 girls) completed data collection at two timepoints. When children were in second grade (T1; mean age = 7.88 years), mothers and fathers each reported on the quality of their coparenting relationship. In fourth grade (T2; mean age = 9.79 years), children reported on the quality of their best friendship. Results from regression analyses showed that mothers who perceived a supportive coparenting relationship with their spouse had children who subsequently reported a relationship of higher quality with their best friend, and a post-hoc interaction analysis demonstrated that this association was magnified when fathers also perceived a supportive coparenting relationship. No direct links were found between fathers’ perceptions of their coparenting relationship and children’s friendships. These results suggest that the quality of the coparenting relationship, at least as perceived by mothers, relates to children’s ability to establish and sustain important, intimate relationships with friends longitudinally. They also suggest that these effects are particularly pronounced when both parents agree on the quality of their coparenting relationship. Therefore, interventions aimed at promoting coparenting teamwork may help foster children’s ability to form and maintain intimate friendships in middle childhood and beyond.

Highlights

  • Research is scarce on longitudinal links between coparenting and child friendships.

  • Mothers’ coparenting reports relate to children’s ability to form friendships.

  • Links are magnified when fathers perceive a supportive coparenting relationship.

  • Results are independent from parents’ marital satisfaction.

  • Future work should examine friendship reciprocity as well.

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Fig. 1

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Perrier, R., Bernier, A., Dirks, M. et al. Longitudinal Linkages Between Coparenting and Subsequent Friendship Quality in Middle Childhood. J Child Fam Stud 29, 3091–3102 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01821-2

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Keywords

  • Coparenting
  • Friendship quality
  • Best friendship
  • Middle childhood
  • Longitudinal