The Experience of Parental Conflict in Parallel Parenting Custody Arrangements
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Within Canada, parallel parenting plans have been introduced to manage parental conflict in cases of high conflict divorce (Epstein & Madsen, 2004). Since parallel parenting plans are a relatively novel form of custody order, limited research exists pertaining to their effectiveness and impact on the lives of families. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the experience of parallel parenting. However, since participants were reluctant to discuss this experience directly, the focus of this dissertation shifted to the experience of conflict. Individual interviews with eight participants (five mothers and three fathers) with direct knowledge or experience with parallel parenting plans volunteered to participate in this qualitative study. Interviews followed a reflexive-dyadic interview model and were analyzed using thematic analysis. Thematic analysis identified three common themes across the cases: (a) Attributions of responsibility: Self versus other; participants attributed responsibility for the parenting conflict to their former partners; (b) Who knows best; participants believed that they, and only they, knew what was best for their child; neither their former partners nor the court system were recognized as being able to accurately judge this; and (c) Desire for a resolution; the participants believed that they were more motivated than their former partners to desist from conflict; their willingness to cooperate was associated with a reduction in conflict and improved the parenting relationship and post-divorce adjustment of their child. The themes held dramatically different meaning across cases depending on the context of their relationships. Overall, participants reported a reduction in conflict over time. However, the reported reduction in conflict was found to vary with the participants’ level of satisfaction with the imposed arrangement, the quality of conflict in the parenting relationship, and subsequent willingness to cooperate with their former partners. How these variables relate to the parallel parenting custody arrangement remains unknown. Difficulties with research on parallel parenting custody arrangements and directions for further research are discussed.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeChartier, Brian; Lawson, Karen; Kinzel, Audrey
Copyright DateDecember 2012
High conflict Divorce