The arrival of a baby can bring tremendous joy — and stress — to new parents. Research in several countries has shown that new parents who learn teamwork skills are more likely to have supportive relationships that result in better physical and mental health, more sensitive and warm parenting quality and better developmental outcomes for children.
To foster new research and policies that support successful co-parenting, Penn State Research Professor Mark Feinberg recently established the International Center for Coparenting Policy and Research (ICOPAR). The new center is the first organization aimed at enhancing the understanding and promotion of healthy coparenting across countries.
“A positive co-parenting relationship is fundamental for healthy families and development,” Feinberg said. “When parents support and coordinate with each other, rather than engaging in conflict and undermining, they are more patient and less likely to argue or act harshly. Their children grow up to be healthier and happier.”
Feinberg has created a widely-cited theoretical model for co-parenting and a questionnaire instrument used by researchers to collect data about co-parenting relationships that has been translated into more than two dozen languages.
ICOPAR currently has more than 100 members from more than 25 countries and is seeking additional members and new funding.
“We would like to attract outside funding and be able to have more infrastructure to support researchers,” Feinberg said. “We want to hire experts to create communication tools and products for families, service providers, and professionals. We also want to create a comprehensive resource library of research tools and policies promoting positive co-parenting that is translated into different languages.”
Feinberg noted that the study of co-parenting encompasses parents and parental figures in diverse family structures, including single parents, married and divorced parents, grandparents and people of diverse gender and sexual orientations.
Doug Teti, distinguished professor, department head of Human Development and Family Studies, and Social Science Research Institute cofund at Penn State, said he is “particularly interested in understanding co-parenting cross-culturally and how co-parenting is manifested in cultures that do not conform to Western family structures.”
ICOPAR members can increase awareness of the important role that co-parenting and collaborative caregiving play in family and child well-being, said Norma Perez-Brena, associate professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona.
“I am excited to work with ICOPAR to highlight the diverse forms in which collaborative caregiving exists within families across the globe,” said Perez-Brena.
The center is supported by the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, the Social Science Research Institute and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State.