Co-parenting within foster care: Influences on child development

Daniela Montalto, Fordham University


Increasing evidence suggests that ‘co-parenting’, the extent to which parents function as partners or adversaries in their parenting roles, makes an independent contribution to child adjustment, beyond the influence of parenting alone (Cowan & McHale, 1996). This study is the first of its kind to extend the investigation of co-parenting to foster-care. Two measures of co-parenting in foster care were developed, a coding scheme for observations (Foster Care & Co-parenting Rating System; FCCRS) and a questionnaire (Co-parenting Events Scale; CES), to study the impact of co-parenting in foster care on behavior outcomes. Participants were 24 biological and foster parents and their 3 to 10 year old foster child (M = 6.9 years: SD = 2.6). Most families (over 90%) fell below the midpoint on the FCCRS supportive (M = 9.2, SD = 2.1) and unsupportive subscales (M = 6.6, SD = 1.5). Although a strong relationship was not found between FCCRS scales and child behavior, medium to large relationships were found for the CES. A significant large inverse effect was found for biological parents on CES and externalizing behavior problems, r = −.89, p = 02; large negative effects were also found for internalizing and total behavior problems, although not significant, r = −.59, p = .22 and r = −.69, p = .13, respectively. For foster parents, only a large negative effect was found between CES and internalizing behavior problems, r = −.68, p = .14. Social competence was only positively related to FCCRS supportive co-parenting, r = .40, p = .05, and inversely related to FCCRS unsupportive co-parenting, r = −.25, p = .25. Findings on the CES, though, should be interpreted with caution (n = 6) and need replication. Co-parenting patterns were subsequently more fully examined through exploratory analyses. Findings support the application of two new co-parenting measures in foster care and underscore the need for further research into the relationships between biological and foster families and child outcomes. The unique focus on the co-parenting relationship in foster care underscores important targets for intervention and prevention and emphasizes the need for services that are multimodal and designed to address child, family (foster and biological) and social factors.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social work

Recommended Citation

Montalto, Daniela, "Co-parenting within foster care: Influences on child development" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159393.