Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (N = 507), we considered the role of parents’ earlier (child age 5) relationship quality, co-parenting quality, and father involvement in children’s later (age 9) internalizing and externalizing behaviors, with a specific focus on mediational links. We also explored the possibility of different patterns of associations based on child gender.
A demographically diverse sample of women who were in stable relationships (married or cohabiting) with the focal child’s biological father completed questionnaires assessing the primary study variables at child ages 5 and 9 years.
Correlational analyses supported many of the hypothesized links between relationship quality, co-parenting quality, father involvement, and children’s behaviors problems, although more so for boys. Regression analyses further illuminated the associations among the study variables. Importantly, co-parenting quality served as a mediator in the link between relationship quality and boys’ age 9 internalizing and externalizing behaviors.
This study identified different patterns for boys and girls, with relationship quality, co-parenting quality, and father involvement being important for boys but only co-parenting quality being important for girls. Further, findings suggest that for boys, the quality of the mother’s romantic relationship has a bearing on the quality of her co-parenting with the father, which in turn impacts the son’s behavioral adjustment. Future studies are needed to understand the nature of the longitudinal associations among the study variables more fully.