Does Shared Parenting Help or Hurt Children in High-Conflict Divorced Families?

Nicole E. Mahrer, Karey L. O’Hara, Irwin Sandler, Sharlene Wolchik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Despite a recent shift in the allocation of parenting time arrangements following divorce, there is no clear consensus regarding the effects of shared parenting on children’s adjustment in high-conflict families. We propose key questions and methodological options to increase the ability of results from well-designed empirical studies to inform practice and policy. We review 11 studies of relations between parenting time and parenting quality with children’s adjustment in high-conflict divorced families. Despite heterogeneity of methods used across the studies, some tentative conclusions can be made based on findings of multiple studies. Higher levels of shared parenting were related to poorer child adjustment in samples with high conflict many years following the divorce, but typically not in samples that assessed conflict during the divorcing process or in the 2 or 3 years following the divorce. There is also evidence that the effects of shared parenting on child adjustment in the presence of high conflict differs by gender, and that high quality of parenting by at least 1 parent is associated with better child adjustment in high-conflict divorces. Implications for policy and practice are discussed as well as directions for research to strengthen the knowledge base to inform policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-347
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2018


  • Fathers
  • interparental conflict
  • parenting quality
  • parenting time
  • shared parenting
  • youth adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Law


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