A certain kind of violence during marriage can somewhat predict how effective co-parenting might be in the first year of divorce, a University of Illinois study suggests, with those having violence predicated by affairs or money arguments ultimately having less parental conflicts.
Researchers at U of I followed 135 women and interviewed each of them five times during the first year of separation for the study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Jennifer Hardesty, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, led the study.
Women who were victims of coercive controlling violence, where there is “a larger pattern of dominance and coercion,” are more likely to have higher levels of harassment, conflict, and volatility from their former partners than women who suffered situational violence, Hardesty said. There was less co-parenting effort and support for these women from their former husbands.
Women who had situational violence — where arguments would escalate, or the violence erupted from an affair or finances — were more likely to have co-parenting support during the first year of separation.
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Hardesty acknowledged that parents with former situational violence still had more conflict and harassment than couples who had had no violence in the marriage.
“There was much less predictability for women in controlling violent relationships,” said Brian Ogolsky, a co-author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “These women might experience high levels of conflict and harassment, which may improve and appear better but then worsen once again. There’s this up and down that creates a context of fear and unpredictability.
“They never know what’s coming. This variability is such an important piece, and we did see that the women with controlling violent relationships had much higher levels of variability.”
More study is needed, the authors say, to determine child outcomes in both circumstances.