Co-Parenting Through Technology

Post divorce communication technology use affects the co parenting relationship

(RxWiki News) Over one million children experience divorce each year. Having a positive co-parenting relationship is one of the most important challenges a divorced couple will face.

Now, with technology being a common communication tool, the way co-parents communicate can vary.

Co-parents with both good and bad relationships used technology to communicate, but how they used the technology was very different.

"Use e-mail or text to avoid more arguments"

Lawrence Ganong, PhD of the University of Missouri conducted a small study of 49 divorced co-parents to look at how they used technology to communicate with each other.

To qualify for the study, the co-parents had to share custody of at least one child under the age of 18 and participate in one-on-one interviews.

The study compared two ways of communicating known as synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous meant both parents spoke in the same time frame, like by telephone or face-to-face. Asynchronous meant that messages were sent and received over different periods of time, like through email and phone texts.

The researchers found that parents who considered themselves to have “good” relationships used all types of technology to communicate, from telephones to email, but their focus was mostly on their children’s needs.

The technology was merely a set of tools to make it easier for them to plan for their children.

For the co-parents who described their relationship as “poor” the technology was often used to control the other parent.

Parents in hostile or emotionally distant relationships used the technology to withhold information, to make decisions that limited the other parent’s involvement and to influence the behavior of a co-parent.

All parents used technology whether the relationship was good or poor, but the relationships described as “poor” focused less on the needs of the children and more on controlling the other parent.

The study found that using email and texting was preferred for reducing stressful interactions among difficult relationships. 

When using email or a text, co-parents said they had time to think more carefully about their communication and usually edited their words.

Without the hostile face-to-face or phone conversations, co-parents may be better able to exchange important information and make decisions for the benefit of their children.

This study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Family Relations and was funded by a University of Missouri Research Council grant and the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
September 4, 2012