Transactions Within the Family: Coparenting Mediates Associations Between Parents' Relationship Satisfaction and the Parent-Child Relationship


Psychological Sciences

Document Type


Publication Source

Journal of Family Psychology. Volume 32, Issue 5, Pages 553-564.

Publication Date



In the current study, we examined the potential for transactional relations among parents’ marital satisfaction, coparental cooperation and conflict, and parent–child relationship satisfaction in a sample of 249 families with 2–3-year-old children. Using a novel multiwave design with frequent assessments to better capture transactional family processes, mothers and fathers were assessed across 5 waves with 2-month lags; mean age of the target children (53% girls) was 2.8 years (SD = 0.62) at baseline. Cross-lagged, multilevel structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses using an actor–partner interdependence modeling framework revealed coparental cooperation and conflict as likely mechanisms within the family system. Specifically, marital satisfaction from both parents was reciprocally linked to fathers’ coparental cooperation over time, supporting transactional links between those two family subsystems. In addition, there were significant transactional links between both mothers’ and fathers’ coparental cooperation and father-reported parent–child relationship satisfaction across time, revealing within-parent and cross-parent mediation. Regarding coparental conflict, marital satisfaction from both parents was reciprocally linked to the same parents’ reports of coparental conflict across time (i.e., actor effects). Furthermore, father-reported coparental conflict acted as a mediating or intervening mechanism between father-reported marital satisfaction and mother-reported parent–child relationship satisfaction (cross-parent mediation). Taken as a set, the findings supported coparental cooperation and conflict as significant links between marital functioning and the parent–child relationship. Findings build on a growing body of literature addressing the transactional associations embedded within the family system and highlight the importance of modeling the inherent interdependencies between mothers’ and fathers’ reports of family functioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)


marital, coparenting, toddlers, family systems, parent–child relationship