Despite average-sized U.S. families having more than one child, coparenting in families with two children is understudied.
The main aim of this exploratory study was to provide the first steps toward investigating the construct of divide-and-conquer coparenting, a coparenting strategy that emerges in families consisting of two parents and two children in which each parent focuses their attention on one child at a time. Specifically, the aim of the study was to provide preliminary evidence for the validity of a new observational rating scale to assess divide-and-conquer coparenting and to examine its relation to coparenting quality.
Observations of whole-family interactions (N = 52 families) were coded for overall use of divide-and-conquer coparenting, each parents’ involvement with each child, and quality of coparenting (i.e., cooperative and competitive). Parents were also asked to write responses to an open-ended question concerning how their coparenting had changed since having a second child.
Divide-and-conquer coparenting was positively associated with parent involvement patterns in which each parent mainly focuses on one child at a time, with parents’ endorsement of use of divide-and-conquer coparenting in the open-ended question, and with cooperative coparenting. It was negatively associated with competitive coparenting.
Results provide support for the existence of a divide-and-conquer coparenting strategy in families with two young children and preliminary validation of our divide-and-conquer coparenting rating scale, as well as suggesting that this strategy is related to high-quality coparenting.
Implications for family intervention and future empirical work in this area are discussed.