Posts Tagged Parenting

Challenges of Co-Parenting


Challenges of Co-ParentingDivorce frequently brings the challenge of how best to raise the kids. In today’s environment, it is common for both ex-spouses to share legal and physical custody of children after divorcing.

However, few studies have looked at the process of co-parenting, so little is known about how divorced parents negotiate the co-parenting process. A new study identifies factors that influence the success of co-parenting.

Researchers from Kansas State University discovered that the type of relationship a woman has with her ex-partner is a factor in how the couple shares custody of children.

Investigators followed divorced or separated mothers who were sharing physical custody of their children with their former partners.

Mindy Markham, Ph.D., an assistant professor of family studies and human services divided the study group into three patterns of co-parenting — continuously contentious, always amicable and bad to better.

Markham also looked at additional negative and positive factors that influenced the mothers’ co-parenting relationships.

The study included 20 predominately white, well-educated women between the ages of 26 to 49 who were divorced or separated from the father of their children.

The mothers, from two Midwestern states, shared with their former partners legal and physical custody of the children, who ranged in age from 21 months to 12 years.

At the time of the study, the couples had been separated or divorced from six months to 12 years.

“The findings of this study suggest that shared physical custody relationships are dynamic and can vary greatly,” Markham said.

In current study, nine mothers (45 percent) had continuously contentious co-parenting relationships with their ex-partners from the time of separation to the present.

This stressful negative relationship fueled the mother’s perception of her ex’s parenting abilities; financial concerns, including the ex not having a job or not paying child support; control or abuse by the ex-partner; and the inability of the ex to separate marital — or personal — issues from the co-parenting relationship.

“All mothers in this type of co-parenting relationship reported differences in parenting styles and were concerned with how the ex was raising the children,” Markham said.

“Parenting practices that concerned the mothers varied greatly and included putting children in harmful situations, not bathing the children, not disciplining them and having no rules or routines.

“It was especially difficult for these mothers to share custody with ex-partners who were uninvolved during the marriage. They didn’t believe their exes were responsible parents.”

Markham said eight of the women in the continuously contentious relationships didn’t want to share custody of the children with their ex-partner, but most were told by lawyers or the court that they would have to do so.

Twenty percent of mothers reported an amicable co-parenting relationship — where they reported always getting along with their ex-partners from separation to the present.

In this form of relationship the mothers believed their ex-partners were responsible parents, money wasn’t a source of conflict and the mothers chose to share physical custody.

Seven of the mothers in the study (35 percent) had bad-to-better co-parenting relationships, where co-parenting was contentious at the time of separation, but greatly improved over time.

At the time of the study, these women’s relationships were similar to those of women with always amicable relationships. These mothers wanted to share physical custody, thought the father was a responsible parent and most said money was not a source of conflict.

Significantly, all mothers in bad-to-better relationships said they were unable to co-parent amicably with their ex-partner in the beginning because personal issues were not kept separate from parenting responsibility.

“Although ex-partners with bad-to-better relationships originally allowed their feelings about one another to negatively affect their co-parenting, at some point they realized this was not beneficial and made a conscious effort to change the relationship for the sake of their children,” Markham said.

Being able to communicate with the ex-partner is a major factor during co-parenting. In the always amicable and bad-to-better relationships, mothers were able to communicate well with ex-partners.

The ability to communicate with the ex-partner made discussing differences in parenting styles easier, reported this group of women.

However, for women in continuously contentious relationships, lack of communication was a big issue, Markham said.

These mothers limited direct in-person or phone communication with their ex, preferring alternative methods like texting or email. They also avoided seeing their ex in person when it came time to exchange children by having them picked up at day care or school.

Markham said she was surprised by the level of animosity that accompanies shared custody, at least from some mothers’ perceptions.

“Nearly half of the mothers in this study continue to have conflicted relationships with their ex-partners, and conversations with these women negate the notion that shared physical custody ensures cooperative, less conflicted relationships,” she said.

“This study can be important for helping professionals recognize that shared physical custody is not a panacea for postdivorce problems — and that in some cases it exacerbates them.”

Source: Kansas State University

Parents arguing while child covrs his ears photo by shutterstock.

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Yoga Reduces Depression in Pregnant Women


Yoga Reduces Depression in Pregnant WomenYoga may help women cope with depression during pregnancy, as well as boost maternal bonding, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Researchers note that one in five pregnant women experience major depression. Their study found that “mindfulness” yoga helped reduce those symptoms.

“We hear about pregnant women trying yoga to reduce stress but there’s no data on how effective this method is,” said lead author Maria Muzik, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of psychiatry.

“Our work provides promising first evidence that mindfulness yoga may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for pregnant women showing signs of depression. This promotes both mother and baby well-being.”

Hormonal changes, genetic predisposition and social factors set the stage for some expectant moms to experience persistent irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed and inability to cope with stress, according to the researchers. Untreated, these symptoms could be major health risks for both mother and baby, including poor weight gain, preeclampsia, premature labor, and trouble bonding.

While antidepressants have proven to effectively treat these mood disorders, many pregnant women are reluctant to take these drugs out of concern for their infant’s safety, said Muzik.

“Unfortunately, few women suffering from perinatal health disorders receive treatment, exposing them and their child to the negative impact of psychiatric illness during one of the most vulnerable times. That’s why developing feasible alternatives for treatment is critical.”

Evidence suggests women are more comfortable with non-traditional treatments, including herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and mind-body work, including mindfulness yoga, which combines meditative focus with physical poses, the researcher notes.

For the research study, women who were 12 to 26 weeks pregnant and showed signs of depression participated in 90-minute mindfulness yoga sessions that focused on poses for the pregnant body, as well as support in the awareness of how their bodies were changing to help their babies grow.

More research is needed, according to Muzik, who notes that funding for follow-up work on this subject was recently provided by a grant from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

“Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” she said. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”

The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

Source: University of Michigan

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PTSD Can Affect New Mothers


PTSD Affects One in Three New MothersNatural childbirth is a major cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to new research.

A Tel Aviv University researcher has discovered that approximately one-third of all postpartum women exhibit some symptoms of PTSD, and a smaller percentage develop full-blown PTSD following labor.

Of the women who developed symptoms, 80 percent opted for natural childbirth without pain relief, reported Professor Rael Strous of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

Other significant factors identified in the study include the woman’s body image, including discomfort about being in an undressed state for a relatively prolonged period of labor and undergoing elective Caesarean sections; fear during labor; and complications in not only this pregnancy, but in earlier ones as well.

Researchers interviewed 89 post-partum women between the ages of 20 and 40, first within five days after delivery and then again one month after delivery.

They discovered that of these women, 25.9 percent displayed symptoms of PTSD, 7.8 percent suffered from partial PTSD, and 3.4 percent exhibited symptoms of full-blown PTSD.

Symptoms included flashbacks of the labor, the avoidance of discussion of the event, physical reactions, such as heart palpitations during such discussions, and a reluctance to consider having another child.

According to Strous, one of the most influential factors was pain management during delivery. Of the women who experienced PTSD symptoms, 80 percent had gone through a natural childbirth, without any form of pain relief.

“The less pain relief there was, the higher the woman’s chances of developing post-partum PTSD,” he said. Of the women who did not develop any PTSD symptoms, only 48 percent experienced a natural childbirth, he added.

A full 80 percent of the PTSD group reported feeling discomfort with being unclothed, and 67 percent had previous pregnancies which they described as traumatic. Fear of the labor itself, both in terms of expected pain levels and danger to themselves and their children, was also influential.

The researchers also discovered that support during labor, in the form of a midwife or doula, had no impact when it came to avoiding PTSD symptoms. Other factors, such as socioeconomic and marital status, level of education, and religion, also had no effect.

Strous suggests doctors become familiar with the profile of women more disposed to suffer from PTSD symptoms, and be on the look-out for warning signs after labor. He also advocates additional research to develop better treatment plans and make more resources available for women.

There are some immediate steps medical professionals can take, Strous added, including better counseling about pain relief and making sure that patients’ bodies are properly covered during delivery.

“Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account,” he said. “It’s an issue of ethics and professionalism, and now we can see that it does have physical and psychological ramifications.”

The study was published in the Israel Medical Association Journal.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Pregnant woman on bed photo by shutterstock.

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Physical Forms of Child Discipline More Common than Acknowledged


Physical Forms of Child Discipline More Common than AcknowledgedIn one of the first real-world studies of caregiver discipline, a new study reveals that parents actually use physical forms of punishment much more than they show in laboratory experiments and acknowledge in surveys.

Michigan State University researchers found that 23 percent of youngsters received some type of “negative touch” when they failed to comply with a parental request in public places such as restaurants and parks. Negative touch included arm pulling, pinching, slapping and spanking.

“I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behavior done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers,” said researcher Kathy Stansbury, Ph.D. “I have also seen hundreds of kids and their parents in a lab setting and never once witnessed any of this behavior.”

Stansbury is a psychologist and associate professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. She performed the study to obtain a realistic view of how often parents use what she calls positive and negative touch in noncompliance episodes with their children.

In the study, a group of university student researchers anonymously observed 106 discipline interactions between caregivers and children ages 3-5 in public places and recorded the results.

The data were vetted, analyzed and published in the current issue of the research journal Behavior and Social Issues.

Male caregivers were found to touch children more during discipline settings than female caregivers. However, the touching was not in a negative manner, rather males used forms of positive touch included hugging, tickling and patting.

Stansbury says this positive approach contradicts the age-old stereotype of the father as the parent who lays down the law.

“When we think of Dad, we think of him being the disciplinarian, and Mom as nurturer, but that’s just not what we saw,” Stansbury said. “I do think that we are shifting as a society and fathers are becoming more involved in the daily mechanics of raising kids, and that’s a good thing for the kids and also a good thing for the dads.”

Ultimately, positive touch caused the children to comply more often, more quickly and with less fussing than negative touch, or physical punishment, Stansbury said. When negative touch was used, even when children complied, they often pouted or sulked afterward, she said.

“If your child is upset and not minding you and you want to discipline them, I would use a positive, gentle touch,” Stansbury said. “Our data found that negative touch didn’t work.”

Source: Michigan State University

Happy father and daughter photo by shutterstock.

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Early Relationships Key to Happiness


Positive social relationships in childhood and adolescence are the key to adult happiness, according to new research.

Researchers at Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia also found that academic achievement had little effect on adult well-being.

A team of researchers led by Craig Olsson, Ph.D., analyzed data for 804 people, who were followed for 32 years in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) in New Zealand.

They particularly focused on the relationship between social connectedness in childhood, language development in childhood, social connectedness in adolescence, academic achievement in adolescence, and well-being in adulthood.

Social connectedness in childhood was defined by parent and teacher ratings of the child being liked, not being alone, and the child’s level of confidence. Social connectedness in adolescence was demonstrated by social attachments with parents and peers, as well as participation in youth groups and sporting clubs.

The researchers found a strong connection between child and adolescent social connectedness and adult well-being, noting this illustrates the “enduring significance of positive social relationships over the lifespan to adulthood.”

The researchers also found that the connection from early language development, through adolescent academic achievement, to adult well-being was weak, which is in line with existing research showing a lack of association between socioeconomic prosperity and happiness.

The analysis also suggests that the social and academic paths are not related to one another, and may actually be parallel paths, the researchers said.

“If these pathways are separate, then positive social development across childhood and adolescence requires investments beyond development of the academic curriculum,” the researchers conclude.

The study is published online in Journal of Happiness Studies.

Source: Springer

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Multi-Language Environment Affects Child’s Emotional Development


Multi-Language Environment Affects Childs Emotional DevelopmentIn a melting pot of cultures, many parents raise their children in a multilingual environment.

While children generally benefit from the cross-cultural exposure and linguistic experience, researchers are discovering that parents often switch between languages during emotional situations.

A new research study reviews this linguistic phenomenon to better understand how using different languages to discuss and express emotions in a multilingual family might play an important role in children’s emotional development.

Psychological scientists Stephen Chen and Qing Zhou of the University of California, Berkeley and Morgan Kennedy of Bard College say the findings suggest the particular language parents choose to use when discussing and expressing emotion can have significant impacts on children’s emotional understanding, experience, and regulation.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a steadily growing interest in the languages multilingual individuals use to express emotions,” said Chen.

“We were interested in the potential clinical and developmental implications of emotion-related language shifts, particularly within the context of the family.”

Existing research from psychological science underscores the fact that language plays a key role in emotion because it allows the speakers to articulate, conceal, or discuss feelings.

When parents verbally express their emotions, they contribute to their children’s emotional development by providing them a model of how emotions can be articulated and regulated.

When parents discuss emotion, they help their children to accurately label and consequently understand their own emotions. This explicit instruction can further help children to better regulate their emotions.

Research from the linguistic field suggests that when bilingual individuals switch languages, the way they experience emotions changes as well.

Bilingual parents may use a specific language to express an emotional concept because they feel that language provides a better cultural context for expressing the emotion.

For example, a native Finnish speaker may be more likely to use English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.

Thus, the language that a parent chooses to express a particular concept can help to provide cues that reveal his or her emotional state.

Researchers say that language choice may also influence how children experience emotion — such expressions can potentially elicit a greater emotional response when spoken in the child’s native language.

Researchers are unsure if shifting from one language to another may help children to regulate their emotional response by using a less emotional, non-native language as a way to decrease negative arousal.

Further, the ability to shift languages may help a child model culture specific emotional regulation.

Researchers believe evidence supports the premise that a child’s emotional competence is fundamentally shaped by a multilingual environment.

These findings may be particularly useful in the development of intervention programs for immigrant families, helping intervention staff to be aware of how the use of different languages in various contexts can have an emotional impact.

“Our aim in writing this review was to highlight what we see as a rich new area of cross-disciplinary research,” said Chen.

“We’re especially excited to see how the implications of emotion-related language switching can be explored beyond the parent-child dyad – for example, in marital interactions, or in the context of therapy and other interventions.”

The study findings are published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Happy family photo by shutterstock.

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Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1


Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1 Children whose fathers are more engaged with them at 3 months have fewer behavioral problems at 12 months, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Oxford studied 192 families recruited from two maternity units in the UK to see whether there was a link between father-child interactions in the early postnatal period and the child’s behavior.

“We found that children whose fathers were more engaged in the interactions had better outcomes, with fewer subsequent behavioral problems,” said Dr. Paul Ramchandani, who led the study.

“At the other end of the scale, children tended to have greater behavioral problems when their fathers were more remote and lost in their own thoughts, or when their fathers interacted less with them.”

The association tended to be stronger for boys than for girls, suggesting that boys may be more susceptible to the influence of their fathers from a very early age, he said.

“We don’t yet know whether the fathers being more remote and disengaged are actually causing the behavioral problems in the children, but it does raise the possibility that these early interactions are important,” he added.

The researchers believe there are a number of possible explanations for the link. The lack of engagement by the father could reflect wider problems in family relationships, with fathers who are in a more troubled relationship with their partners finding it more challenging to engage with their infants, they said.

Alternatively, it may reflect a lack of supervision and care for the infant, resulting in an increase in behavioral problems.

Another possibility is that the infant’s behavior represents its attempts to elicit a parental reaction in response to an earlier lack of parental engagement, the researchers said.

“Focusing on the infant’s first few months is important as this is a crucial period for development and the infant is very susceptible to environmental influences, such as the quality of parental care and interaction,” Ramchandani said.

“As every parent knows, raising a child is not an easy task. Our research adds to a growing body of evidence which suggests that intervening early to help parents can make a positive impact on how their infant develops.”

The research was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Source: Wellcome Trust

Father with infant photo by shutterstock.

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