This is a dissertation comprising three manuscripts. I was interested in the ways that challenging parenting contexts affect couple relationships and wanted to gain skills in both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The three papers are:
- Predicting coparenting quality among adoptive parents
- Parenting children with autism: A crucible for couple relationships
- Understanding and applying coparenting in social work practice
Coparenting is a construct that refers to the degree to which parents coordinate their parenting efforts and support each other in their parenting roles. My first study uses a statewide survey to explore the factors that predict coparenting quality among adoptive couples. In particular, the study findings suggest that marital quality, the degree to which partners cope with stress together, and conflict resolution skills are important predictors of adoptive parents' coparenting quality.
In my second study I worked with Dr. Tina Timm (social work) and doctoral candidate Julie Ramisch (marriage and family therapy). We conducted in-depth interviews with the parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The study findings reveal that autism creates intense stressors and emotional reactions that force changes in relationship processes. Strategies such as communication, clarifying priorities, and creatively finding time together can help couples build relationships that are stable and, in some cases, stronger than ever. I intend to build upon this work by developing and evaluating interventions for adoptive families and families who have a child with an ASD.
The third paper synthesizes the existing research about coparenting and considers its implications for social work practice with diverse families. Findings suggest that coparenting has significant implications for both child and parent well-being and may served as an ideal intervention target for distressed families.