Co-parenting in the heart of the family – Transitioning to parenthood

If the transition to parenthood involves a strong individual identity development, it is above all a couple.

This conjugal adventure is complicated because from the couple’s relationship the feeling of family must be born. In addition, it has a central influence on the bond between parents, as well as on the socio-emotional development of the child.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting is defined as the support that fathers and mothers give each other in their parenting role. This collaboration with the parents is a process that takes place gradually from birth because the couple discovers each other in a new light.

The first step is to define parenting roles. This arrangement continues the organization defined before the pregnancy and adapts to achieve a new balance that is considered equal satisfaction.

Despite the existence of egalitarian beliefs, the influence of social norms is strong and dictates roles according to gendered master status[1]. This concept postulates that social behavior tends to assimilate men to work and women to the family, resulting in a sexual division of domestic work.

This phase is fulfilled when one attends to duplication in the couple’s relationship that makes it possible to combine a loving and parental relationship.

Joint or bad parenting

When co-parenting is united, both parents agree on actions as well as emotionally and manage to resolve differences without aggression.

On the other hand, if the change is not good, there can be three conflicts: conflict between parents who openly argue, the withdrawal of one of the two parents from family life or even building a tense climate, superficially friendly with little affection for. either side.

In the event that marital relations are not harmonious, the child may be caught in parental conflict in spite of himself and he seeks to slow down conflicts and tensions.

This atmosphere interferes with his development, which can cause him to become aggressive or anxious, especially during socialization experiences.

What are the factors that condition the establishment of a parenting relationship?

The first is the quality of the marital relationship that was already in place before the child was born. It can be assumed that a bad relationship is likely to continue.

The second factor is the father’s involvement. It is the relationship between the father and his son that comes from the desire to participate in his education and to participate in his responsibilities. This factor can be weakened due to cultural norms or the lack of support from the mother. In Switzerland, the traditional model is predominant and it assigns men to full-time work, sometimes creating pressure that does not allow fathers to participate in the daily care of children. The recent paternity leave is a great step forward that is too short to have an impact on this commitment.

The third factor refers to mothers’ behavior that inhibits father’s involvement actions. These attitudes of the mother are often ambivalent and sometimes unconscious and they are shown by ordering the rules of education or the care given to the child. If they are not satisfied, they can separate the father from the child by weakening him.

The fourth factor is related to the social representation of parents regarding the distribution of household or educational tasks. It stems from individuals’ family and social experiences as well as their egalitarian or traditional convictions.

Finally, the fifth factor is related to the personality of both parents. A parent’s anxiety creates a brake on a cohesive co-parenting that does not lead to consensus and sometimes leads to mutual avoidance or criticism.

Establishing co-parenting is one of the main challenges for couples when they become parents and it is subject to many issues.

This process is important because it conditions the harmonious development of the family, the mental health of the parents and thus the socio-emotional development of the child.

In order to maintain it in a sustainable way, it is necessary to support couples during the perinatal period, to include fathers in the care of health professionals and to give flexibility to men and women.

According to Nicolas FAVEZ’s article, “The transition to parenthood and the rearrangements of the couple relationship”, Dialogue, 2013/1 (n° 199), p. 73-83.

[1] Gauthier JA, Valarino I. The activation of gendered master status during the transition to parenthood. In: Le Goff JM, Levy M. Becoming a parent, becoming unequal. Geneva: Seismo. 2016. p.48-75.

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