Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 2643–2655 | Cite as

The Impact of Mothers’ Post-Divorce Dating Breakups on Children’s Problem Behaviors

  • Michael R. Langlais
  • Jacqueline S. DeAnda
  • Edward R. Anderson
  • Shannon M. Greene
Original Paper


Many parents have concerns about the implications of dating (and subsequent breakups) on their children’s wellbeing. Yet, little is known about the ways in which mothers’ post-divorce dating breakups influence children’s development. According to family systems theory, the effect dating breakups have on children’s behavior may be more dependent on the rapport children have with mothers’ dating partners than the event of a breakup itself. The goal of this study is to examine the effect of mothers’ post-divorce dating breakups on children’s adjustment, specifically internalizing and externalizing behaviors, while also testing children’s rapport with dating partners as a moderator. The current study used longitudinal, multi-method and multi-informant data of mothers who dated following divorce (N = 270) and children who were aware of their mothers’ dating relationships (N = 170). Using hierarchical linear modeling techniques, results indicated no main effect of breakup on children’s problem behaviors. However, children’s rapport with mothers’ dating partners significantly moderated the effects of breakups on children’s internalizing behaviors. Children who reported high levels of rapport with dating partners exhibited more internalizing behaviors at breakup compared to children who reported low levels of rapport with dating partners. Additionally, in families where children were aware of their mothers’ dating relationships and mothers experienced breakups (n = 88), rapport moderated the effects of breakup for both internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Thus, transitions out of dating relationships appear stressful for children when they established positive relationships with mothers’ dating partners. Further implications for post-divorce adjustment are discussed.


Post-divorce dating Children’s problem behaviors Family transitions Repartnering Family systems theory 



This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, R01 HD41463-01A1. We would also like to acknowledge Holly Reidelbach for all of her hard work with collecting data for this study.

Author Contributions

M.R.L.: conducted the analyses and wrote the paper. J.S.D.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. E.R.A.: conducted data collection and assisted with study analyses. S.M.G.: assisted with data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas - Austin and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study, and parental consent was collected for children who participated in this study.


  1. Amato, P. R. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1269–1287. Scholar
  2. Amato, P. R. (2010). Research on divorce: Continuing trends and new developments. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 650–666. Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. R., & Greene, S. M. (2005). Transitions in parental repartnering after divorce. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 43, 47–62. Scholar
  4. Anderson, E. R., & Greene, S. M. (2011). “My child and I are a package deal”: Balancing adult and child concerns in repartnering after divorce. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 741–750. Scholar
  5. Anderson, E. R., Greene, S. M., Hetherington, E. M., & Clingempeel, W. G. (1999). The dynamics of parental remarriage: Adolescent, parent, and sibling influences. In E. M. Hetherington & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Coping with divorce, single parenting, and remarriage: A risk and resiliency perspective (pp. 295–319). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Anderson, E. R., Greene, S. M., Walker, L., Malerba, C., Forgatch, M. S., & DeGarmo, D. S. (2004). Ready to take a chance again: Transitions into dating among divorced parents. Journal of Divorce & remarriage, 40, 61–75. Scholar
  7. Bowen, M. (1991). Alcoholism as viewed through family systems theory and family psychotherapy. Family Dynamics of Addiction Quarterly, 1, 94–102.Google Scholar
  8. Broderick, C. B. (1993). Understanding family process: Basics of family systems theory. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  9. Bzostek, S. H., McLanahan, S. S., & Carlson, M. J. (2012). Mothers’ repartnering after a non-marital birth. Social Forces, 90, 817–841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Capaldi, D. M., & Patterson, G. R. (1991). Relation of parental transitions to boys’ adjustment problems: I. A linear hypothesis: II. Mothers at risk for transitions and unskilled parenting. Developmental Psychology, 27, 489–504. Scholar
  11. Cartwright, C. (2010). Preparing to repartner and live in a stepfamily: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Family Studies, 16, 237–250. Scholar
  12. Clarke-Stewart, K., Vandell, D. L., McCartney, K., Owen, M. T., & Booth, C. (2000). Effects of parental separation and divorce on very young children. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 304–326. Scholar
  13. Coleman, M., Ganong, L., & Fine, M. (2000). Reinvestigating remarriage: Another decade of progress. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1288–1307. Scholar
  14. Ganong, L. H., & Coleman, M. (2004). Stepfamily relationships: Development, dynamics, and interventions. New York, NY US: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hetherington, E., & Clingempeel, W. (1992). Coping with marital transitions: A family systems perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57, 1–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hetherington, E., & Kelly, J. (2002). For better or for worse: Divorce reconsidered. New York, NY US: W. W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  17. Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resilience perspectives. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 52, 352–362. Scholar
  18. Kurdek, L. A., & Fine, M. A. (1993). Parent and nonparent residential family members as providers of warmth and supervision to young adolescents. Journal of Family Psychology, 7, 245–249. Scholar
  19. Kurdek, L. A., Fine, M. A., & Sinclair, R. J. (1995). School adjustment in sixth graders: Parenting transitions, family climate, and peer norm effects. Child Development, 66, 430–445. Scholar
  20. Langlais, M. R., Anderson, E. R., & Greene, S. M. (2016a). Consequences of repartnering for post-divorce maternal well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78, 1032–1046. Scholar
  21. Langlais, M. R., Anderson, E. R., & Greene, S. M. (2016b). Mothers’ dating after divorce. Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, 10, 69–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Langlais, M. R., Anderson, E. R. & Greene, S. M. (2015). Characterizing mother’s dating after divorce. Journal of Divorce & remarriage, 56, 180–198. Scholar
  23. Lansford, J. E. (2009). Parental divorce and children’s adjustment. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 140–152. Scholar
  24. Montgomery, M. J., Anderson, E. R., Hetherington, E., & Clingempeel, W. (1992). Patterns of courtship for remarriage: Implications for child adjustment and parent–child relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 54, 686–698. Scholar
  25. Parks, M. R., Stan, C. M., & Eggert, L. L. (1983). Romantic involvement and social network involvement. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46, 116–131. Scholar
  26. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Reed, J. (2007). Anatomy of a breakup: How and why do unmarried couples with children break up? In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 133–156). New York, US: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  28. Rosenblatt, P. C. (1994). Metaphors of family systems theory: Toward new constructions. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. New York, NY US: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Skew, A., Evans, A., & Gray, E. (2009). Repartnering in the United Kingdom and Australia. Journal of Comparative family Studies, 40, 563–585.Google Scholar
  31. Slotter, E. B., Gardner, W. L., & Finkel, E. J. (2010). Who am I without you? The influence of romantic breakup on the self-concept. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 147–160. Scholar
  32. Sprecher, S. (2011). The influence of social networks on romantic relationships: Through the lens of the social network. Personal Relationships, 18, 630–644. Scholar
  33. Sprecher, S., & Felmlee, D. (1992). The influence of parents and friends on the quality and stability of romantic relationships: A three-wave longitudinal investigation. Journal of Marriage and the family, 54, 888–900. Scholar
  34. Sprecher, S., & Felmlee, D. (2000). Romantic partners’ perceptions of social network attributes with the passage of time and relationship transitions. Personal Relationships, 7, 325–340. Scholar
  35. Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Metts, S., Fehr, B., & Vanni, D. (1998). Factors associated with distress following the breakup of a close relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 791–809. Scholar
  36. Symoens, S., Colman, E., & Bracke, P. (2014). Divorce, conflict, and mental health: How the quality of intimate relationships is linked to post-divorce well-being. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44, 220–233. Scholar
  37. Tavares, L., SpringerAmpamp; Aassve, A. (2013). Psychological distress of marital and cohabitation breakups. Social Science Research, 42, 1599–1611. Scholar
  38. Wang, H., & Amato, P. R. (2000). Predictors of divorce adjustment: Stressors, resources, and definitions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 655–668. Scholar
  39. Woltman, H., Feldstein, A., MacKay, J. C., & Rocchi, M. (2012). An introduction to hierarchical linear modeling. Tutorials in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, 8, 52–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wu, Z., & Schimmele, C. M. (2005). Repartnering after first union disruption. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 27–36. Scholar
  41. Zill, N. (1985). Behavior problems scales developed from the 1981 Child Health Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey. Washington, DC: Child Trends.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family StudiesUniversity of Nebraska – KearneyKearneyUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas – AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations