Prevention Science

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 276–285 | Cite as

Enhancing Coparenting, Parenting, and Child Self-Regulation: Effects of Family Foundations 1 Year after Birth

  • Mark E. Feinberg
  • Marni L. Kan
  • Megan C. Goslin


This study investigated whether a psycho-educational program with modest dosage (eight sessions), delivered in a universal framework through childbirth education programs and targeting the coparenting relationship would have a positive impact on observed family interaction and child behavior at 6-month follow-up (child age 1 year). One hundred sixty-nine couples, randomized to intervention and control conditions, participated in videotaped family observation tasks at pretest (during pregnancy) and at child age 1 year (2003–2007). Coparenting, parenting, couple relationship, and child self-regulatory behaviors were coded by teams of raters. Intent-to-treat analyses of program effects controlled for age, education, and social desirability. Evidence of significant (p < 0.05) program effects at follow-up emerged in all four domains. Effect sizes ranged from 0.28 to 1.01. Targeting the coparenting relationship at the transition to parenthood represents an effective, non-stigmatizing means of promoting parenting quality and child adjustment.


Coparenting Childbirth education Transition to parenting 



We are grateful to the families who participated in this study. We appreciate the assistance of Karen Newell, Sherry Turchetta, Carole Brtalik, Sharolyn Ivory, David White, Ned Hoffner, Dan Marrow, Ellen McGowan, and Kathryn Siembieda in implementing the program. We thank Jesse Boring, Carmen Hamilton, Richard Puddy, Carolyn Ransford, and Samuel Sturgeon for their assistance in conducting this study. George Howe, Mark Greenberg, James McHale, Pamela Cole, and Doug Teti provided thoughtful advice and support. This study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (1 K23 HD042575) and the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH064125-01), Mark E. Feinberg, principal investigator.


  1. Abidin, R. R., & Brunner, J. F. (1995). Development of a parenting alliance inventory. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 24, 31–40. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp2401_4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antonucci, T. C., & Mikus, K. (1988). The power of parenthood: Personality and attitudinal changes during the transition to parenthood. In G. Y. Michaels, & W. A. Goldberg (Eds.), The transition to parenthood: Current theory and research. Cambridge studies in social and emotional development (pp. 62–84). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bearss, K. E., & Eyberg, S. (1998). A test of the parenting alliance theory. Early Education and Development, 9, 179–185. doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed0902_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belsky, J. (1986). Transition to parenthood. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 20, 56–59.Google Scholar
  5. Belsky, J., Putnam, S., & Crnic, K. (1996). Coparenting, parenting, and early emotional development. In J. P. McHale, & P. A. Cowan (Eds.), Understanding how family-level dynamics affect children's development: Studies of two-parent families. New directions for child development, No. 74 (pp. 45–55). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Biringen, Z. (2005). Training and reliability issues with the Emotional Availability Scales. Infant Mental Health Journal. Special Issue: Emotional Availability: Extending the Assessment of Emotional Availability to Include Gender, Culture, and At-Risk Populations, 26, 404–405.Google Scholar
  7. Bradbury, T. N., Fincham, F. D., & Beach, S. R. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 964–980. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Britner, P. A., Marvin, R. S., & Pianta, R. C. (2005). Development and preliminary validation of the caregiving behavior system: Association with child attachment classification in the preschool Strange Situation. Attachment & Human Development, 7, 83–102. doi: 10.1080/14616730500039861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chaplin, T. M., & Cole, P. M. (2005). The role of emotion regulation in the development of psychopathology. In B. L. Hankin, J. R. Z. Abela (Eds.), Development of psychopathology: A vulnerability-stress perspective (pp. 49–74). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Coiro, M. J., & Emery, R. E. (1998). Do marriage problems affect fathering more than mothering? A quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 1, 23–40. doi: 10.1023/A:1021896231471.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1992). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. New York: Basic-Books.Google Scholar
  12. Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1995). Interventions to ease the transition to parenthood: Why they are needed and what they can do. Family Relations: Journal of Applied Family & Child Studies, 44, 412–423.Google Scholar
  13. Crnic, K., & Greenberg, M. T. (1987). Maternal stress, social support, and coping: Influences on the early mother-infant relationship. In C. F. Z Boukydis (Ed.), Research on support for parents and infants in the postnatal period (pp. 25–40). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Crowne, D. P., & Marlow, D. (1964). The approval motive. New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  15. Cummings, E. M., Schermerchorn, A. C., Davies, P. T., Goeke-Morey, M. C., & Cummings, J. S. (2006). Interparental discord and child adjustment: Prospective investigations of emotional security as an explanatory mechanism. Child Development, 77, 132–152. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00861.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davies, P. T., & Cummings, E. M. (1994). Marital conflict and child adjustment: An emotional security hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 387–411. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.116.3.387.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davies, P. T., & Cummings, E. M. (1998). Exploring children's emotional security as a mediator of the link between marital relations and child adjustment. Child Development, 69, 124–139.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Deater-Deckard, K., & Petrill, S. A. (2004). Parent-child dyadic mutuality and child behavior problems: An investigation of gene-environment processes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 45, 1171–1179. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00309.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Risher, P.(2002). Listening to mothers: Report of the first national U.S. survey of women's childbearing experiences. New York: Maternity Center Association.Google Scholar
  20. Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., & Applebaum, S. (2006). Listening to mothers II: Report of the second national U.S. survey of women's childbearing experiences. New York: Childbirth Connection.Google Scholar
  21. Denton, W. H., Golden, R. N., & Walsh, S. R. (2003). Depression, marital discord and couple therapy. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 16, 29–34. doi: 10.1097/00001504-200301000-00007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dishion, T. J., & Patterson, G. R. (2006). The development and ecology of antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. In D. Ciccheti (Ed.), Developmental psychopathology, vol. 3: Risk, disorder, and adaptation (2nd ed., pp. 503–541). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Duvall, E. C. (1977). Marriage and family development. Philadelphia: Lippincott.Google Scholar
  24. Eisenberg, N., Gershoff, E. T., Fabes, R. A., Shepard, S. A., Cumberland, A. J., Losoya, S. H., et al. (2001). Mothers’ emotional expressivity and children's behavior problems and social competence: Mediation through children's regulation. Developmental Psychology, 37, 475–490. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.37.4.475.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Emery, R. E. (1982). Interparental conflict and the children of discord and divorce. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 310–330. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.92.2.310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Erel, O., & Burman, B. (1995). Interrelatedness of marital relations and parent-child relations: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 108–132. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.118.1.108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Feinberg, M. E. (2002). Coparenting and the transition to parenthood: A framework for prevention. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 5, 173–195. doi: 10.1023/A:1019695015110.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Feinberg, M. (2003). The internal structure and ecological context of coparenting: A framework for research and intervention. Parenting, Science and Practice, 3, 95–132. doi: 10.1207/S15327922PAR0302_01.Google Scholar
  29. Feinberg, M. E., & Kan, M. L. (2008). Establishing family foundations: Intervention effects on coparenting, parent/infant well-being, and parent-child relations. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 253–263. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.22.2.253.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Feinberg, M. E., Reiss, D., Neiderhiser, J. M., & Hetherington, E. M. (2005). Differential association of family subsystem negativity on siblings’ maladjustment: Using behavior genetic methods to test process theory. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 601–610. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.19.4.601.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Feinberg, M. E., Kan, M. L., & Hetherington, E. M. (2007). The longitudinal influence of coparenting conflict on parental negativity and adolescent maladjustment. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 69, 687–702. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00400.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Field, T. M. (2000). Infants of depressed mothers. In S. L. Johnson, & A. M. Hayes, (Eds.), Stress, coping, and depression (pp. 3–22). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  33. Floyd, F. J., & Zmich, D. E. (1991). Marriage and parenting partnership: perceptions and interactions of parents with mentally retarded and typically developing children. Child Development, 62, 1434–1448. doi: 10.2307/1130817.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Frosch, C. A., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & McHale, J. L. (2000). Marital behavior and the security of preschooler-parent attachment relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 144–161. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.14.1.144.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2000). The timing of divorce: Predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14-year period. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 737–745. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00737.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Grossman, F. K., Eichler, L. S., & Winickoff, S. A. (1980). Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  37. Huston, T. L., Caughlin, J. P., Houts, R. M., Smith, S. E., & George, L. J. (2001). The connubial crucible: Newlywed years as predictors of marital delight, distress, and divorce. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 237–252. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.80.2.237.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jensen, P. S. (2003). Commentary: The next generation is overdue. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 527–530. doi: 10.1097/01.CHI.0000046837.90931.A0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Karreman, A., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M. A. G., & Dekovic, M. (2008). Parenting, coparenting, and effortful control in preschoolers. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 30–40. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.22.1.30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kochanska, G., & Aksan, N. (2006). Children's conscience and self-regulation. Journal of Personality, 74, 1587–1617. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00421.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kosterman, R., Hawkins, J. D., Spoth, R., & Haggerty, K. P. (1997). Effects of a preventive parent-training intervention on observed family interactions: Proximal outcomes from preparing for the drug free years. Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 337–352. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6629(199707)25:4337::AID-JCOP33.0.CO;2-R.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mangelsdorf, S. C., Shapiro, J. R., & Marzolf, D. (1995). Developmental and temperamental diferences in emotion regulation in infancy. Child Development, 66, 1817–1828. doi: 10.2307/1131912.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 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. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.15.1.3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Margolin, G., Gordis, E. B., & Oliver, P. H. (2004). Links between marital and parent-child interactions: Moderating role of husband-to-wife aggression. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 753–771. doi: 10.1017/S0954579404004766.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McHale, J. P. (1995). Coparenting and triadic interactions during infancy: The roles of marital distress and child gender. Developmental Psychology, 31, 985–996. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.31.6.985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McHale, J. P. (1997). Overt and covert coparenting processes in the family. Family Process, 36, 183–201. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1997.00183.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McHale, J. P., Kuersten-Hogan, R., & Lauretti, A. (2001). Evaluating coparenting and family-level dynamics during infancy and early childhood: The Coparenting and Family Rating System. In P. K. Kerig, & K. M. Lindahl, (Eds.), Family observational coding systems: Resources for systemic research (pp. 151–170). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  48. Meek, J., Lillehoj, C. J., Welsh, J., & Spoth, R. (2004). Rural community partnership recruitment for an evidence-based family-focused prevention program: The PROSPER project. Rural Mental Health, 29, 23–28.Google Scholar
  49. Mental Health. A Report of the Surgeon General. (1999). Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Serviceso. Document Number).Google Scholar
  50. Mills-Koonce, W. R., Gariépy, J.-L., Propper, C., Sutton, K., Calkins, S., Moore, G., et al. (2007). Infant and parent factors associated with early maternal sensitivity: A caregiver-attachment systems approach. Infant Behavior and Development, 30, 114–126. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.11.010.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2000). Factors associated with fathers' caregiving activities and sensitivity with young children. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 200–219. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.14.2.200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. O'Hara, M.W., & Swain, A.M. (1996). Rates and risk of postpartum depression—A meta-analysis. International Review of Psychiatry, 8, 37–54. doi: 10.3109/09540269609037816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Olds, D. (1999). Long-term effects of nurse home visitation on children's criminal and antisocial behavior: 15-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281, 1377. doi: 10.1001/jama.281.15.1377. ReplyCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ooms, T., & Wilson, P. (2004). The challenges of offering relationship and marriage eduation to low-income populations. Family Relations, 53, 440–447. doi: 10.1111/j.0197-6664.2004.00052.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pacifici, C., & Bearison, D. J. (1991). Development of children's self-regulations in idealized and mother-child interactions. Cognitive Development, 6, 261–277. doi: 10.1016/0885-2014(91)90039-G.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Reardon-Anderson, J., Stagner, M., Macomber, J. E., & Murray, J.(2005). Systematic review of the impact of marriage and relationship programs. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from
  57. Rothbart, M. K., Posner, M. I., & Kieras, J. (2006). Temperament, attention, and the development of self-regulation. In K. McCartney, & D. Phillips, (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of early childhood development (pp. 338–357). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanders, M. R., & Morawska, A. (2006). Towards a public health approach to parenting. The Psychologist. Special Issue: Nipping criminality in the bud, 19, 476–479.Google Scholar
  59. Saunders, S. D., Greaney, M. L., Lees, F. D., & Clark, P. G. (2003). Achieving recruitment goals through community partnerships: The SENIOR project. Family & Community Health, 26, 194–202.Google Scholar
  60. 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. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.1.194.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Skinner, E. A., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2007). The development of coping. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 119–144. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085705.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Spoth, R., Clair, S., Greenberg, M., Redmond, C., & Shin, C. (2007). Toward dissemination of evidence-based family interventions: Maintenance of community-based partnership recruitment results and associated factors. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 137–146. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.21.2.137.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Teti, D. M., O'Connell, M. A., & Reiner, C. D. (1996). Parenting sensitivity, parental depression and child health: The mediational role of parental self-efficacy. Early Development & Parenting, 5, 237–250. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0917(199612)5:4237::AID-EDP1363.0.CO;2-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tice, D. M. (1992). Self-concept change and self-presentation: The looking glass self is also a magnifying glass. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 435–451. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.3.435.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van den Boom, D. C. (1994). The influence of temperament and mothering on attachment and exploration: An experimental manipulation of sensitive responsiveness among lower-class mothers with irritable infants. Child Development, 65, 1457–1477. doi: 10.2307/1131511.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zahn-Waxler, C., Cole, P. M., Richardson, D. T., Friedman, R. J., Michel, M. K., & Belouad, F. (1994). Social problem solving in disruptive preschool children: Reactions to hypothetical situations of conflict and distress. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 98–119.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Feinberg
    • 1
  • Marni L. Kan
    • 2
  • Megan C. Goslin
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Prevention Research CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Risk Behavior and Family ResearchRTI InternationalResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations