Life Course Theory Principles and Theory of Coparenting

The four main principles of life course theory are:

  1. historical context,
  2. time-appropriate roles,
  3. timing of life course transition and
  4. timing of life course experiences.

Those principles may seem less executable for parents who are no longer romantically involved and do not share a household, thus creating a different and sometimes unhealthy environment for the child’s development. The parent-child scheme in split families divides into two independent dyads, which might affect the child controversially and create a distorted image of gender and social roles in society.

Regarding historical context, the task of being a parent has greatly evolved throughout history. Today, with highly developed medicine, psychology, and overall improved work and life environment, it became common to give birth to a lesser number of children for the sake of giving them better living conditions and more parental attention. The rapid historical context changes forced parents to be more involved in their child’s development even if they have split and no longer live together. It can sometimes lead to unexpected consequences when parents begin to compete for attention, thus provoking inadequate reactions in a child and supporting destructive behavior.

Pleck and Pleck, together with Johnston and Swanson, state that today’s parenting culture insists on the involvement of the father and the intensity of the mother. In the situation of co-parenting for split parents, those traits may take upon some unnatural forms of behavior. The intenseness in a single mother can often become hyper-protectiveness, intrusive parenting, or even abuse, while a father might withdraw completely from raising their child, either driven away by the mother or simply lacking the need to be involved. It can be assumed that healthy co-parenting might be more difficult for parents who no longer live in the same household when the influence of at least one parent is diminished.

The timing of life-course transitions is crucial for the proper parent-child relationship in split families, too, as it provides an age-adequate experience and the knowledge needed to properly process this experience. It is known that younger parents suffer much more difficulties in raising children because of the lack of vital insights provided throughout life course transitions. Those types of parents might not be able to withstand the variety of challenges the child’s development brings if they have not yet faced those experiences themselves. With that, they also fail to provide the child with opinions on the matter, thus debarring the child the ability to overcome and adapt to those challenges.

An issue of life course experiences can also fall into this category because those experiences are gained through appropriately timed and thorough transitions. With split parents, a child might relive the same situations multiple times because there is no close communication between parents, and their behavior might repeat one another or even overlap. But regarding social adaptation, this might be considered moderately good for the child’s emotional and social intelligence development. The variety of experiences and impressions collected from the interactions with both parents supply the child with a constant flow of outcomes and impressions to analyze and reflect on, which might improve their ability to successfully communicate in society.

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