Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 981–996 | Cite as

Coparenting Problems with Toddlers Predict Children’s Symptoms of Psychological Problems at Age 7

  • Tomo Umemura
  • Caroline Christopher
  • Tanya Mann
  • Deborah Jacobvitz
  • Nancy Hazen
Original Article


This study examined whether coparenting during toddlerhood predicts children’s later symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, affective disorder, and somatic complaints. When children were 2 years old, 108 middle-class nonclinical families were observed in triadic interactions to assess two domains of dyadic coparenting (competitive and cooperative), as well as each parent’s individual competitive behavior toward the spouse. Teachers and mothers reported children’s symptoms of psychological problems at age 7. Independent of cooperative coparenting and each parents’ individual harsh parenting, competitive coparenting predicted children’s symptoms of ADHD and ODD. Interactions with child gender indicated that competitive coparenting predicted ADHD symptoms in boys (not in girls) and teacher-reported (not mother-reported) somatic complaints in girls (not in boys). ODD and ADHD symptoms were also predicted by fathers’ (not mothers’) individual competitive behaviors. The children of parents who were both low in competitive behaviors had the lowest teacher-rated symptoms of affective disorder.


Coparenting Developmental psychopathology Family systems Gender difference 



This research was supported by Grant SBR-9212990 from the National Science Foundation and Grant 3332 from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Tomo Umemura is supported by the Program of Employment of Best Young Scientists for International Cooperation Empowerment (Grant No. CZ. 1.07/2.3.00/30.0037), European Social Fund, and the state budge of the Czech Republic. Caroline Christopher is supported by Grant 5 T32 MH 18387 from the NIH.


  1. 1.
    Teubert D, Pinquart M (2010) The association between coparenting and child adjustment: a metaanalysis. Parent Sci Pract 10:286–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    McHale JP (2007) When infants grow up in multiperson relationship systems. Infant Ment Health J 284:370–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Thompson RA (2006) The development of the person: social understanding, relationships, self, conscience. In: Damon W, Lerner RM, Eisenberg N (eds) Handbook of child psychology. Social, emotional, and personality development, vol 3, 6th edn. Wiley, New York, pp 24–98Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Minuchin S (1974) Families and family therapy. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Talbot JA, McHale JP (2004) Individual parental adjustment moderates the relationship between marital and coparenting quality. J Adult Dev 11:191–205PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    McHale JP, Kuersten-Hogan R, Lauretti A (1996) New directions in the study of family-level dynamics during infancy and early childhood. In: McHale JP, Cowan P (eds) Understanding how family-level dynamics affect children’s development: studies of two-parent families, vol 74. Jossey-Bass, New York, pp 57–76Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    McHale JP (1995) Coparenting and triadic interactions during infancy: the roles of marital distress and child gender. Dev Psychol 31:985–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Belsky J, Putnam S, Crnic K (1996) Coparenting, parenting, and early emotional development. In: McHale JP, Cowan PA (eds) Understanding how family-level dynamics affect children’s development: studies of two-parent families. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp 45–55Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Schoppe-Sullivan SJ, Weldon AH, Cook CJ, Davis EF, Buckley CK (2009) Coparenting behavior moderates longitudinal relations between effortful control and preschool children’s externalizing behavior. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 50:698–706PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Margolin G, Gordis EB, John RS (2001) Coparenting: a link between marital conflict and parenting in two-parent families. J Fam Psychol 15:3–21CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Baril ME, Crouter AC, McHale SM (2007) Processes linking adolescent well-being, marital love, and coparenting. J Fam Psychol 21:645–654CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    McHale JP, Rasmussen JL (1998) Coparental and family group-level dynamics during infancy: early family precursors of child and family functioning during preschool. Dev Psychopathol 10:39–59CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    McHale JP, Johnson D, Sinclair R (1999) Family dynamics, preschoolers’ family representations, and preschool peer relationships. Early Educ Dev 10:373–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    McHale JP, Rao N, Krasnow AD (2000) Constructing family climates: Chinese mothers’ reports of their co-parenting behavior and preschoolers’ adaptation. Int J Behav Dev 24:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jones DJ, Shaffer A, Forehand R, Brody G, Armistead LP (2003) Coparent conflict in single mother-headed African American families: do parenting skills serve as a mediator or moderator of child psychosocial adjustment? Behav Ther 34:259–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Feinberg ME, Kan ML, Hetherington EM (2007) The longitudinal influence of coparenting conflict on parental negativity and adolescent maladjustment. J Marriage Fam 69:687–702PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kochanska G, Barry RA, Aksan N, Boldt LJ (2008) A developmental model of maternal and child contributions to disruptive conduct: the first six years. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 49:1220–1227PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Bowlby J (1982) Attachment and loss. Attachment, vol 1, 2nd edn. Basic Books, New York (original work published 1969)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cummings EM, Schermerhorn AC, Davies PT, Goeke-Morey MC, Cummings JS (2006) Interparental discord and child adjustment: prospective investigations of emotional security as an explanatory mechanism. Child Dev 77:132–152CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Schoppe SJ, Mangelsdorf SC, Frosch CA (2001) Coparenting, family process, and family structure: implications for preschoolers’ externalizing behaviour problems. J Fam Psychol 15:526–545CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stright AD, Neitzel C (2003) Beyond parenting: coparenting and children’s classroom adjustment. Int J Behav Dev 27:31–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Johnson VK, Cowan PA, Cowan CP (1999) Children’s classroom behavior: the unique contribution of family organization. J Fam Psychol 13:355–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kolak AM, Vernon-Feagans L (2008) Family-level coparenting processes and child gender as moderators of family stress and toddler adjustment. Infant Child Dev 17:617–638PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Forehand R, Jones DJ (2003) Neighborhood violence and coparent conflict: interactive influence on child psychosocial adjustment. J Abnorm Child Psychol 31:591–604CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    McClure EB, Kubiszn T, Kaslow NJ (2002) Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood mood disorders. Prof Psychol 33:125–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ramchandani PG, Hotopf M, Sandhu B, Stein A (2005) The epidemiology of recurrent abdominal pain from 2 to 6 years of age: results of a large, population-based study. Pediatrics 116:46–50CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Borge AIH, Nordhagen R, Moe B, Botten G, Bakketeig LS (1994) Prevalence and persistence of stomach ache and headache among children: follow-up of a cohort of Norwegian children from 4 to 10 years of age. Acta Paediatr 83:433–437CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nolan EE, Gadow KD, Sprafkin J (2001) Teacher reports of DSM-IV ADHD, ODD, and CD symptoms in school children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 40:241–249CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Amato PR, Keith B (2001) Children of divorce in the 1990s: an update of the Amato and Keith (1991) meta-analysis. J Fam Psychol 15:355–370CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Christopher C, Umemura T, Mann T, Jacobvitz D, Hazen N (under review) Marital quality over the transition to parenthood as a predictor of coparentingGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Cannon EA, Schoppe-Sullivan SJ, Mangelsdorf SC, Brown GL, Sokolowski MS (2008) Parent characteristics as antecedents of maternal gatekeeping and fathering behavior. Fam Process 47:501–519CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kulik L, Tsoref H (2010) The entrance to the maternal garden: environmental and personal variables that explain maternal gatekeeping. J Gend Stud 19:263–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Schoppe-Sullivan SJ, Brown GL, Cannon EA, Mangelsdorf SC, Sokolowski MS (2008) Maternal gatekeeping, coparenting quality, and fathering behavior in families with infants. J Fam Psychol 22:389–398CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Carlson EA, Jacobvitz D, Sroufe LA (1995) A developmental investigation of inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Child Dev 66:37–54CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Cunningham CE, Boyle ME (2002) Preschoolers at risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder: family, parenting, and behavioral correlates. J Abnorm Child Psychol 30:555–569CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Karreman A, Van Tuijl C, Van Aken MAG, Dekovic M (2008) Parenting, coparenting, and effortful control in preschoolers. J Fam Psychol 22:30–40CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Frosch CA, Mangelsdorf SC, McHale JL (2000) Marital behavior and the security of preschooler-parent attachment relationships. J Fam Psychol 14:144–161CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Lansford JE, Deater-Deckard K, Dodge KA, Bates JE, Pettit GS (2004) Ethnic differences in the link between physical discipline and later adolescent externalizing behaviors. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 45:801–812PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Vasta R (1982) Physical child abuse: a dual-component analysis. Dev Rev 2:125–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Achenbach TM (1991) Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/4–18 and 1991 Profile. University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Roetzel A (2007) Children’s emotion regulation scales. Unpublished assessment, University of Texas at AustinGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Fabes RA, Eisenberg N, Bernzweig J (1990) The coping with children’s negative emotions scale: description and scoring. Arizona State University (unpublished coding manual)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Muthén B, Muthén L (1998–2010) Mplus user’s guide. Authors, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Enders CK (2010) Applied missing data analysis. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Schroeder VM, Kelley ML (2009) Associations between family environment, parenting practices, and executive functioning of children with and without ADHD. J Child Fam Stud 18:227–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Davies PT, Lindsay LL (2001) Does gender moderate the effects of marital conflict on children?. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 64–97Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Harvey EA, Metcalfe LA, Herbert SD, Fanton JH (2011) The role of family experiences and ADHD in the early development of oppositional defiant disorder. J Consult Clin Psychol 79:784–795PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Taylor E, Schachar R, Thorley G, Wieselberg M (1986) Conduct disorder and hyperactivity, I: separation of hyperactivity and antisocial conduct in British child psychiatric disorders. Br J Psychiatry 149:760–767CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Sterba SK, Prinstein MJ, Cox MJ (2007) Trajectories of internalizing problems across childhood: heterogeneity, external validity, and gender differences. Dev Psychopathol 19:345–366CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Devanarayana NM, de Silva DG, de Silva HJ (2008) Recurrent abdominal pain syndrome in a cohort of Sri Lankan children and adolescents. J Trop Pediatr 54:178–183CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    van der Ende J, Verhulst FC, Tiemeier H (2012) Agreement of informants on emotional and behavioral problems from childhood to adulthood. Psychol Assess 24:293–300CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Smith SR (2007) Making sense of multiple informants in child and adolescent psychopathology: a guide for clinicians. J Psychoeduc Assess 25:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Favez NN, Frascarolo FF, Carneiro CC, Montfort VV, Corboz-Warnery AA, Fivaz-Depeursinge EE (2006) The development of the family alliance from pregnancy to toddlerhood and children outcomes at 18 months. Infant Child Dev 15:59–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Abidin RR (1992) The determinants of parenting behavior. J Clin Child Psychol 21:407–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomo Umemura
    • 1
  • Caroline Christopher
    • 2
  • Tanya Mann
    • 3
  • Deborah Jacobvitz
    • 4
  • Nancy Hazen
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Research on Children Youth and Family, Faculty of Social StudiesMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Prevention Research CenterArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.MGStrategyPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Human Development and Family SciencesUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations