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Alternative Title

Learning about parents and their experiences of parenting coordination, legal, and mental health interventions

Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Divorced parents-Services for, Divorced parents-Mental health services, Divorce-Psychological aspects, Part time parents, Marital conflict, High conflict divorce, Parenting coordination, Divorce interventions, Co-parenting, Personality characteristics


This dissertation surveyed 60 separated/divorced conflicted co-parents to investigate parent characteristics and dynamics associated with co-parenting style and parents’ experiences of parenting coordination and other legal and mental health interventions. Narcissism, empathy, and conflict were explored in relation to co-parenting style.

Study findings did not support common notions found in the parenting coordination and high conflict literatures that suggest that these parents are narcissistic or low in empathy. Parent participants were conflictual, as evidenced by the small number of those collaboratively co parenting (13%) in comparison to those co-parenting in parallel and conflicted manners. Findings pertaining to all high conflict participant experiences revealed the presence of common elements deemed useful across interventions, such as learning new skills, having a knowledgeable and fair practitioner, and focusing on the best interests of the child. In addition, parents were dissatisfied with unprofessional/unqualified practitioners, bias toward the other parent, and a lack of therapeutic/working alliance. Participants were dissatisfied with the cost of parenting coordination. In addition, the majority of the subsample who engaged in parenting coordination wanted their PC to have more authority to make and enforce decisions, which would set this intervention apart as a hybrid mental health and legal intervention that is different from other kinds of alternative dispute resolution interventions. Parenting coordination appeared satisfactory for half of the respondents and not so for the other half, making it imperative to determine who benefits from this intervention and the specific ways in which this intervention can be changed to be more universally useful. Implications for research, practice, and policy are included.




v, 206 pages. Ph.D. Dissertation-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 151-167)