Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


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Johnson, V. J., Choi, D., Wheeler, L. A., & Kuo, P. X. (2023). Coparenting support in the context of difficult children: Mother and father differences. Family Process, 00, 1–19.


Open access.


While parenting children with difficult behaviors can intensify stress within the entire family system, families may lean on other familial relationships to mitigate that stress. The coparenting relationship is known to play a key role within the family system for child outcomes and familial interactions, but it is not clear whether it eases the stress and challenge of raising a difficult child, nor how that plays out differently for mothers versus fathers. Ninety-six couples (89.7% married) parenting young children (Mean age = 3.22 years) were included in this study. Using cross-sectional and aggregated daily response data, actor–partner interdependence models were used to examine how mothers' and fathers' perceived coparenting support lessened or intensified parenting stress and/or daily problems with their child/children—for themselves or their parenting partner. We found that greater coparenting support reported by mothers coincided with stronger links between the mother's report of child difficulty and daily problems encountered by both mothers and fathers. In contrast, when fathers reported greater coparenting support, the intensity between reported child difficulty and daily problems decreased for mothers, and fathers reported lower parenting stress. Coparenting support also moderated associations between parents' perception of child difficulty and daily problems with their children. These results suggest that mothers incur heightened coparenting support from fathers when experiencing more difficult child behavior and that coparenting support experienced by fathers may alleviate parenting challenges for mothers. These findings further contribute to the literature by emphasizing distinct differences between mothers and fathers in coparenting associations within the family system.