Study 1: School-aged children in high conflict separation
About Study 1
Study 1 drew on data originally collected in an intervention study that compared outcomes for families who participated in (a) child-focused mediation, and (b) child-inclusive mediation. Data were collected from respondents at four points in time across a four-year period: (a) at intake into divorce mediation, (b) three months post-mediation, (c) one year post mediation, and (d) four years post-mediation.
Children, mothers and fathers from 169 families were involved in face-to-face interviews at as many of these time points as possible. For the purposes of the current analyses, the two intervention group samples were combined into a single high-conflict sample, yielding complete parenting pattern data over a four-year period for 133 families (including 260 children). Complete repeated measures data were available at all four points in time for 106 mothers, 93 fathers and 144 children.
These data were used to explore the following questions:
- What was the demography of various parenting patterns over time in this high-conflict sample?
- How satisfied over time were parents and children with their respective care patterns?
- In what ways did care patterns account over time for children’s closeness to their parents, perception of and reaction to parental conflict, and their psycho-emotional wellbeing?
- How did the flexibility or rigidity of arrangements influence the above outcomes?
Cases were grouped in three ways. The first group was determined by the pattern of post-separation care over four years, yielding four categories:
- continuous primary care (children always spent between one overnight per month and 35% of overnights with each parent);
- continuous shared care (children always spent at least 35% of overnights with each parent);
- changed arrangements (one or more substantial changes to the care schedule since its inception); and
- no or rare overnight contact with one parent by the fourth year of parental separation.
The second grouping described the way in which the most recent care arrangement evolved. This also resulted in one of four patterns:
- a continuous, unchanging schedule;
- a change from shared to primary care;
- a change from primary to shared care; or
- a loss of regular contact.
Finally, the parenting arrangement was classified according to the flexibility of the arrangement in response to the changing needs of family members (as defined by parents), resulting in one of two forms: sometimes/usually flexible arrangements, or rarely/never flexible arrangements (the latter described as rigid arrangements).
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