Improvements in Coparenting Conflict and Child Adjustment Following an Online Program for Relationship Distress

Brian D. Doss, McKenzie K. Roddy, Maria M. Llabre, Emily Georgia Salivar, Amanda Jensen-Doss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Many children never receive treatment for their mental health symptoms-and those that do often receive it only after years of delay. Given that relationship and parenting conflict is an identified mechanism of child mental health symptoms, reducing distress in the parents' romantic relationship may help reduce this unmet need. In the current study, 213 couples with 1 or more children between the ages of 3 and 17 (inclusive) were randomized to receive the web-based OurRelationship program or to a 2-month waitlist condition. Intervention couples were also assessed in the year following the program. Couples in the OurRelationship program experienced a significant decrease in coparenting conflict during the intervention (Cohen's d = -0.27) but also a significant increase in coparenting conflict in the following year, reducing the long-term effects of the intervention (within-group d=-0.20 at 1-year follow-up compared with baseline). Additionally, parent-reported children's externalizing (within-group d = -0.40) and internalizing (within-group d = -0.27) symptoms significantly decreased from baseline to the 1-year follow-up. As hypothesized, improvement in relationship satisfaction during the program was significantly associated with a decrease in coparenting conflict which, in turn, was associated with reduction in both externalizing and internalizing symptoms in the children. These results indicate that online relationship-focused interventions offer an important, adjunctive approach to meet society's need for reducing children's mental health symptoms. Furthermore, the improvements in child functioning strengthen the evidence suggesting the cost-effectiveness of these relationship-focused interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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Social Adjustment
Mental Health
Parenting
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Parents
Conflict (Psychology)

Keywords

  • Coparenting
  • Couple intervention
  • Externalizing
  • Internalizing
  • Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

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title = "Improvements in Coparenting Conflict and Child Adjustment Following an Online Program for Relationship Distress",
abstract = "Many children never receive treatment for their mental health symptoms-and those that do often receive it only after years of delay. Given that relationship and parenting conflict is an identified mechanism of child mental health symptoms, reducing distress in the parents' romantic relationship may help reduce this unmet need. In the current study, 213 couples with 1 or more children between the ages of 3 and 17 (inclusive) were randomized to receive the web-based OurRelationship program or to a 2-month waitlist condition. Intervention couples were also assessed in the year following the program. Couples in the OurRelationship program experienced a significant decrease in coparenting conflict during the intervention (Cohen's d = -0.27) but also a significant increase in coparenting conflict in the following year, reducing the long-term effects of the intervention (within-group d=-0.20 at 1-year follow-up compared with baseline). Additionally, parent-reported children's externalizing (within-group d = -0.40) and internalizing (within-group d = -0.27) symptoms significantly decreased from baseline to the 1-year follow-up. As hypothesized, improvement in relationship satisfaction during the program was significantly associated with a decrease in coparenting conflict which, in turn, was associated with reduction in both externalizing and internalizing symptoms in the children. These results indicate that online relationship-focused interventions offer an important, adjunctive approach to meet society's need for reducing children's mental health symptoms. Furthermore, the improvements in child functioning strengthen the evidence suggesting the cost-effectiveness of these relationship-focused interventions.",
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