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Mother–Grandmother Coparenting Relationships in Families with Incarcerated Mothers: A Pilot Investigation

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James P. McHale

Dawn Cecil

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Using new methods designed to assess coparenting between incarcerated mothers of preschool-aged children and the maternal grandmothers caring for the children during their absence, we examined relationships between coparenting quality during the mother's jail stay and both concurrent child behavior problems and later coparenting interactions following mothers' release and community reentry. Forty mother–grandmother dyads participated in joint coparenting discussions during the incarceration, with a smaller subset completing a parallel activity at home 1 month postrelease. Both women also participated in individual coparenting interviews during the incarceration, and reported on child behavior problems. Mother–grandmother coparenting interactions exhibited an overall structure similar to that documented in nuclear families, with population-specific dynamics also evident. The observational system demonstrated good interrater and internal reliability, and showed associations with maternal (but not grandmother) reports and descriptions of the coparenting relationship via interview. Greater coparenting relationship quality during incarceration was associated with fewer concurrent child externalizing behavior problems, and predicted more positive coparenting interactions postrelease. Findings suggest that the coparenting assessments were useful for understanding mother–grandmother coparenting relationships in these families and that importantly, these relationships were tied to children's functioning. Avenues for future research and considerations for intervention efforts are discussed.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher.Published in Family Process. Published online in June 2010. DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01316.x Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Family Process

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.