A new study was released online today in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry that examines the effect of co-parenting on the behavior of hard-to-manage 4-year olds. Ninety-two sets of parents were videotaped interacting with their children for 1.5 hours, while researchers judged the quality of their relationship - as a cooperative 'co-parenting' one vs a critical or one-up one. The children were evaluated on their behavior at this time, and then one year later; this evaluation was done by asking the children's mothers (which I'll begrudgingly agree makes sense since the non-co-parenting families in the study probably had mom-focused childraising).
It turns out that the strength of the co-parenting relationship was a strong determinant of the behavior of the child at the end of the study. While levels of aggressive behaviors increased during that year in many children, the notable exception was children whose parents showed supportive co-parenting. Primary researcher, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan at Ohio State University, doesn't know exactly why cooperative and supportive parenting worked this magic, but points to a fairly obvious theory: "...it may be that good co-parenting promotes a sense of family security in children that makes it easier for them to focus on controlling their own behaviors and emotions."
These findings extend previous work by Schoppe-Sullivan and others that showed supportive co-parenting also strengthens marital relationships and leads to better individual parenting. "Co-parenting has a central role in families with children," she said. "If you can improve that relationship, there are all kinds of positive effects on the children and on the other family relationships."
Now, 'co-parenting' is just a piece of full ESP, and it is not necessarily fully equal parenting. And we generally don't like to take a stand on the effects of ESP on children because it hasn't yet been studied (and because we believe that any parenting lifestyle can produce happy kids). But it is nice to see this study lend some science to what we believe - if two parents team up to care for their children as peers, good things are bound to happen.
We'll continue to keep an eye out for more co-parenting research and keep you up-to-date as we discover it.