Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 11

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

DOI 10.1007/s10826-016-0395-8


Parenting as Mediator Between Post-divorce Family Structure

and Children’s Well-being
Kim Bastaits1 • Dimitri Mortelmans1

Published online: 25 February 2016

Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Abstract Divorce and its subsequent transitions can be Introduction

stressful for children and therefore, affect their well-being
in a negative manner. Effective parenting (with high sup- According to Amato’s divorce-stress-adjustment perspec-
port and high control) can, however, function as a protec- tive, divorce and the subsequent transitions are stressful for
tive factor. While previous studies have indicated that children, possibly having a negative impact on their well-
effective parenting does indeed improve children’s well- being (Amato 2000). Whether this stress actually does have
being after divorce, these studies tended to concentrate on a negative impact depends heavily on various mediators
maternal family structures and transitions as well as and moderators, one of the most important of which is
maternal parenting. With this study, we investigate the effective parenting. Previous studies have indicated that
mediating role of both maternal and paternal parenting effective parenting (characterized by high levels of support
between various family structures after divorce (including and control) can improve the well-being of children after a
the custodial arrangement as well as the repartnering of parental divorce (Amato 2000, 2005; Lansford 2009).
both parents) and children’s well-being. Therefore, we Although most of these studies concentrated on maternal
analyzed 618 parent–child dyads from the multi-actor parenting (e.g., Lengua et al. 2000; Wood et al. 2004),
dataset ‘‘Divorce in Flanders—DiF’’ using a mediated scholars have recently begun to investigate the role of
structural equation model. Results revealed that both paternal parenting as well (Bastaits et al. 2014; King and
maternal and paternal parenting can mediate between Sobolewski 2006). Nevertheless, studies on parenting and
family structure after divorce and children’s well-being. children in various post-divorce family structures tended to
Depending on the type of post divorce family constellation, concentrate on either the repartnering of one of the parents
parenting can be considered as a risk or a protective factor, (e.g., Hetherington 2006; Gibson-Davis 2008) or on the
for both maternal and paternal parenting. custodial arrangement (e.g., Campana et al. 2008; Lee
2002). Moreover, many studies of family structure and
Keywords Children’s well-being  Divorce  Family transitions focused on the structure and transitions of the
structure  Maternal and paternal parenting mother, leaving the father out of the picture (as observed
by Bjarnason et al. 2012; Langton and Berger 2011). To
understand the impact of family structure on children’s
well-being, research on parenting of both mothers and
fathers as a mediator is important.
Studies on parenting often draw upon the renowned and
widely used theory of parenting styles developed by
& Kim Bastaits Baumrind (1991, 2013). This theory has several advantages
kim.bastaits@uantwerpen.be over other parenting theories (e.g., attachment theory).
1 First, it is not linked to the gender of the parent. Second, its
Centre for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (CELLO),
University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp, focus is not restricted to parental support, but extends to
Belgium include parental control (contrary to attachment theory or

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188 2179

other perspectives). Third, although it stems from research can provide their children with a certain lifestyle; if parents
concentrating on intact families, it is frequently applied in have time, they have the opportunity to support and control
research on divorced families (Bronte-Tinkew et al. 2010; their children. After a divorce, parents work out custodial
Ozen 2004; Stewart 2003). arrangements to divide the time that each will spend with
Baumrind’s theory of parenting styles is based on par- their children. The resulting reduction in contact can lead
ent–child interaction (Baumrind 2013). According to this to a decrease in parental support and control.
theory, children develop by interacting with their parents, Previous studies have revealed that residential parents (in
and the socialization of children runs through this inter- most cases, mothers) provided more support and control
action. Through training, education, and imitation of their than do non-residential parents (in most cases, fathers)
parents, children learn the essential values, habits, and (Bastaits et al. 2012; Hetherington and Stanley-Hagen 1999;
skills that they need in order to function. The optimal Vandoorne et al. 2000). Research has also indicated that
development of children requires both support and control parents with joint custody were more involved than non-
from parents. Support refers to the emotional warmth (love residential parents were, and that their parental involvement
and affection) that parents give to their children, as well as and parenting styles more closely resembled those of resi-
their supportive acts with respect to the individual needs dential parents (Bastaits et al. 2013; Campana et al. 2008).
and plans of their children (Baumrind 2013). With regard Moreover, the time that parents and children spend together
to control, Baumrind identifies ‘‘confrontive control’’ as after a divorce may decline due to the presence of a new
optimal for the development of children. Confrontive partner in the household. If a divorced parent repartners, he
control is goal-oriented, and it involves setting boundaries or she must divide time between the new partner and the
and limits for children in order to help their optimal child, possibly leading to role conflict and a subsequent
development. Parenting should thus not be defined along a decrease in support and control (Adamson and Pasley 2006;
continuum with support and control at opposite ends. Thomson et al. 2001). However, this loss of time does not
Instead, it should be defined as consisting of two different automatically result in a loss of support or control. New
dimensions: support and control (in particular, confrontive partners bring along resources of their own, and they may
control). In order to be effective in child development, take up part of the parenting, possibly even having a positive
parenting should include both of these dimensions. effect on the parental support and control of the divorced
Establishing whether parenting mediates between family parent (Hetherington 2006). Previous studies have reported
structures and the well-being of children requires the mixed results in this respect. Some results indicated that
identification of three relationships: (1) between parenting repartnered parents were less controlling and, in some cases,
and children’s well-being, (2) between family structure and less supportive (Henderson and Taylor 1999; Thomson et al.
parenting and (3) between family structure and children’s 2001), while others suggest that parental support increased
well-being. First, the relationship between parenting and when a new partner was present (Vandoorne et al. 2000).
children’s well-being is established by Baumrind and cor- Third, previous research indicated the existence of a
roborated in previous studies: parenting with high levels of relationship between family structure and children’s well-
support and control effectively improved children’s well- being, although it focused largely on negative indicators of
being (Baumrind 2013). Based on studies of parenting and subjective well-being among children (e.g., Brown 2006;
the substance use of adolescents in various family struc- Langton and Berger 2011). Nevertheless, the absence of
tures, she concluded that authoritative upbringing with high problem behavior and depression does not necessarily
levels of support and control was a sufficient (albeit not a equate to happiness, success, and growth (Ben-Arieh
necessary) condition for raising well-adjusted children 2000). We should therefore look beyond negative indica-
(Baumrind 1991). Similarly, results reported by Bastaits tors (e.g. deviant behavior or psychological problems) and
et al. (2014) indicated that the well-being of children was concentrate on positive indicators of subjective well-being,
promoted when parents avoided a non-involved parenting such as self-esteem and satisfaction with life, in line with
style and, especially, when they raised their children in an other studies (Ben-Arieh and Frønes 2011; Huebner et al.
authoritative manner. In contrast, Verhoeven et al. (2010) 1998). Self-esteem reflects the affective component of
reported that both maternal and paternal control were subjective well-being, and life satisfaction reflects to the
positively related to higher levels of externalized problem cognitive component (Diener and Diener 1995; Huebner
behavior. et al. 1998). Self-esteem refers to a person’s feelings of
Second, a relationship between parenting and family self-worth and self-acceptance (Rosenberg 1965). Satis-
structure can be identified, given the essential role of faction with life refers to an overall evaluation of a per-
contact in parenting. According to parental resource, par- son’s life (Diener and Diener 1995). Children were able to
ents can provide both money and time to their children distinguish between these two indicators, as demonstrated
theory (Thomson et al. 1994). If parents have money, they in a study involving children in secondary school (Huebner

2180 J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

et al. 1998). Both self-esteem and life satisfaction can be life. Given that life satisfaction refers to an overall evalu-
affected by family structure and parenting, due to the ation of the lives of children, it is logical that it is affected
nature of these factors. by individuals who are close to them (e.g., parents). The
Consisting of the level of satisfaction with and accep- family systems perspective regards families as complex,
tance of one’s self and one’s behavior, self-esteem is multilateral, and integrated systems, with family members
constructed in childhood and adolescence, in close rela- being necessarily interdependent and the actions of one
tionships with significant others, especially parents. In family member affecting other family members (Cox and
early sociology, this is described by Cooley (1902) as the Paley 1997; Minuchin 1974). Living arrangements and the
‘‘looking-glass self’’: the appreciation of one’s self is actions of parents should thus necessarily influence the
shaped through reflected appraisals of significant others ways in which children perceive and evaluate their lives.
(like parents) within a context of social interaction. Evidence from different studies indicated that an authori-
Because parents provide the first socialization of children, tative parent (as characterized by high levels of both par-
their parenting and the ways in which they interact with ental support and control) affected children’s life
their children will largely shape their children’s self-es- satisfaction in a positive manner (Milevsky et al. 2007;
teem. Previous research has established that parenting is Suldo and Huebner 2004).
closely related to children’s self-esteem. Chan and Koo Family structures in which children grow up should also
(2011) reported that children in various family structures affect their satisfaction with life. Bjarnason et al. (2012)
had significantly higher levels of self-esteem when their compared the life satisfaction of children in various types
parents had an authoritative parenting style, as character- of families (i.e., single-mother, residential-mother and
ized by high levels of both support and control. Focusing stepfather, single-father, residential-father and stepmother,
on possible gender differences between mothers and and joint physical custody) to that of children in intact
fathers, Milevsky et al. (2007) observed a positive associ- families. They reported that children from intact families
ation between maternal authoritative parenting with high had significantly higher life satisfaction than did children in
levels of support and control and higher self-esteem in all other types of families, with the exception of children in
children. A similar finding was reported in relation to joint physical custody arrangements. According to Bjar-
paternal authoritative parenting. nason et al. (2012), the latter result might be explained by
Disruptions in this pattern of initial socialization (e.g., the fact that children benefit when separated parents share
parental divorce and the ensuing family transitions) might the emotional and other tasks of child-rearing, as the full
also affect the self-esteem of children, given their potential burden of parenting does not fall upon one parent. These
to influence parenting. Previous research has indicated that results provided evidence to support parental resource
children who did not live with both parents in the same theory. Levin and Currie (2010) also reported lower levels
household had lower self-esteem than did children living in of life satisfaction for children living in single-parent or
intact families (Langton and Berger 2011; Robson 2010). stepfamilies than for children in intact families. This result
As indicated by Chan and Koo (2011), parenting partially was particularly strong for boys. In a later study, Levin
explained the link between family structure and children’s et al. (2012) identified parental gender differences, with
self-esteem. It is important to note, however, that joint children in single-father families having lower life satis-
physical custody was not included as a category of family faction, as compared to children in single-mother or step-
structure in those studies. In an overview of the literature, families and to children living with both parents.
Sodermans and Matthijs (2014) indicated that joint physi- Moreover, previous studies on life satisfaction and family
cal custody can influence child adjustment in two ways. structure have demonstrated that indicators of the parent–
First, children benefit from the continuity of parental child relationship (e.g. parent–child communication)
involvement and resources. Second, because the adjust- played a significant role in determining the impact of
ment of children depends on stability, living in alternating family structure on the life satisfaction of children (Bjar-
households might increase stress levels for children. Nev- nason et al. 2012; Levin and Currie 2010).
ertheless, the outcomes of joint physical custody for chil- Still, the specific role of both paternal and maternal
dren might depend on the differentiating factors (e.g., parenting has yet to be investigated within different family
family structure), as well as on the indicator of child structures, at least to our knowledge. Thus, the overall goal
adjustment. Proceeding from parental resource theory, we of this study is to understand the role of parenting in
expect that joint custody is beneficial to the self-esteem of explaining the relationship between family structure and
children, as it ensures the continuity of parental resources children’s subjective well-being. Analyzing dyadic data
and involvement. from the ‘Divorce in Flanders’ study, we answer the fol-
A similar pattern to that of children’s self-esteem has lowing research questions: (1) Does maternal parenting
been observed with regard to children’s satisfaction with mediates between family structure and children’s well-

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188 2181

being? & (2) Does paternal parenting mediates between collected between October 2009 and December 2010.
family structure and children’s well-being?. Therefore, we Parents and children were interviewed using a computer-
address intact families as well as various divorced families, assisted personal interview (CAPI), while grandparents and
taking into account the possible repartnering of both par- stepparents completed written questionnaires. As stated
ents and custodial arrangements. Based on the parenting above, we selected a subsample of parents and children.
model of Baumrind (1991, 2013), we hypothesize that the Information regarding the family structure and the back-
parenting of both mothers and fathers can function as an ground characteristics of parents and children was provided
important mediator between family structure and children’s by the parent, while information regarding the parenting of
subjective well-being. the mothers and fathers and regarding the children’s well-
being was reported by the child.
The DiF dataset is particularly suitable for this study for
Method several reasons. First, given its multi-actor approach, it
includes information on both parents and children. Second,
Participants because married parents were questioned in the survey as
well, the data allow continuous comparisons between
Our analyses are based on data from 618 parent–child married families and various family constellations after
dyads participating in the ‘Divorce in Flanders—DiF’ divorce. Third, Belgium is amongst the front runners in the
study (Mortelmans et al. 2011). The DiF study is a multi- rising European divorce rates (Eurostat 2012). Moreover, it
actor study providing information on parents, children has exhibited a specific legal preference for joint physical
10 years of age or older, grandparents, and stepparents. For custody since 2006 (Sodermans et al. 2013). Taken toge-
our subsample of 618 parent–child dyads, we selected ther, these features imply that Belgium has both a large
children between the ages of 10 and 18 years (following number of divorced parents and a significant number of
the example of McLeod et al. 2007). These children had children in joint physical custody arrangements.
contact with both their parents. For these 618 parent–child
dyads, 224 parents had been continuously married, and 394 Measures
parents had been divorced. Children (50.48 % girls) were
on average 14.19 years old (SD = 2.54). Mothers were on Family Structure
average 42.77 years old (SD = 4.13), fathers 44.39 years
(SD = 4.24). 13.30 % of the mothers completed at most Family structure was operationalized into six mutually
lower secondary education, 41.67 % of the mothers com- exclusive categories, based on two criteria. First, infor-
pleted higher secondary education and 45.03 % of the mation regarding the presence of a partner in the house-
mothers completed higher education. 18.23 % of the holds of both the mother and the father was used. If
fathers completed at most lower secondary education, divorced, the parents reported whether they were living
46.13 % of the fathers completed higher secondary edu- with a new partner and whether the other parent was living
cation and 35.65 % of the fathers completed higher with a new partner. Second, information on custodial
education. arrangements was retrieved from the double custody cal-
endar. On this calendar, participating parents indicated all
Procedure of the nights in a month that their child spent in their
household and all of the nights in a month their child had
For the DiF dataset, both continuously married (1/3) and spent in the household of their former partner. In line with
divorced partners (2/3) were contacted as primary respon- other research regarding custodial arrangements, children
dents, based on their addresses, which were selected at who had stayed with their mothers for more than 66 % of
random from the National Register. Requirements for pri- the nights and with their fathers for less than 33 % of the
mary respondents were as follows: having been married nights were defined as children with residential mothers
between 1971 and 2008 and divorced only once. The (Melli 1999; Smyth and Moloney 2008). Children who had
response rate for these primary respondents was 42.2 % stayed with their fathers for more than 66 % of the nights
(N = 6470; Pasteels et al. 2011). This is in line with other and with their mothers for less than 33 % of the nights
European multi-actor studies (Arránz Becker et al. 2012; were defined as children with residential fathers. Children
Dykstra et al. 2005). The primary respondents provided who had stayed with their mothers between 33 and 66 % of
contact information for the secondary respondents: one the nights and with their fathers between 33 and 66 % of
child (in the case of multiple children, this child was the nights were defined as children in joint physical cus-
selected at random), one maternal grandparent, one pater- tody arrangements. Combining information on the presence
nal grandparent, and all possible stepparents. Data were of a new partner in the household with information on

2182 J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

custodial arrangements resulted in six different categories freed between two very similarly worded items in Dutch.
of family structure: still-married parents (n = 224), resi- This led to an adequate fit (RMSEA = 0.08; CFI = 0.90;
dential single mothers (n = 116), residential mothers liv- SRMR = 0.05). The composite reliability score was 0.81.
ing with new partners (n = 109), parents with joint custody Second, we measured the life satisfaction of children
(n = 138), residential single fathers (n = 13), and resi- according to one indicator (‘‘All things considered, how
dential fathers living with new partners (n = 16). satisfied or dissatisfied are you with life as a whole
nowadays?’’). Children rated this item along an eleven-
Parenting point Likert scale (0 = extremely dissatisfied; 11 = ex-
tremely satisfied). This measure is based on Cantril’s
To measure parental support and parental control, we used (1965) classic measure of life satisfaction (adapted for
two subscales from the Parenting Style Inventory II (Dar- younger children), and it is similar to measures of life
ling and Toyokawa 1997). Information from children was satisfaction used in other studies (e.g., Bjarnason et al.
gathered using items asking about each parent separately. 2012; Levin and Currie 2010; Levin et al. 2012).
Each subscale consisted of five items rated along a five-
point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly Control Variables
agree). Confirmatory factor analysis of the subscale of
support revealed a single factor with sufficiently high Our analyses were controlled for background characteris-
loadings on the latent factor for both mothers and fathers tics of the child, the mother, and the father. Child charac-
(factor loadings for mothers ranged from 0.47 to 0.83; teristics were age and gender. Maternal and paternal
factor loadings for fathers ranged from 0.41 to 0.81). characteristics were age and educational level.
Sample items include, ‘‘I can count on my mother/father to
help me out if I have a problem,’’ and ‘‘My mother/father Data Analyses
and I do things that are fun together.’’ Various fit indices
indicated a good fit after twice freeing the covariance As stated above, we analyzed a dyadic subsample of par-
between similarly worded items in the latent construct for ents and children. For this type of subsample, raw data are
mothers and fathers (RMSEA = 0.06; CFI = 0.95; restructured dyadically, with each data line containing
SRMR = 0.04), and the composite reliability score was information on both the child and the parent. This
0.80 for both mothers and fathers. Confirmatory factor restructuring is based on the dyadic data-organization
analysis of the subscale of control revealed a single factor technique used by Kenny et al. (2006). The dyadic struc-
for three out of five items, with sufficiently high loadings ture of our data allowed us to estimate actor effects (e.g.,
on the latent factor for both mothers and father (factor the indirect effect of the maternal family structure on
loadings for mothers ranged from 0.46 to 0.94; factor children’s well-being through maternal parenting) and
loadings for fathers ranged from 0.60 to 0.93). Sample partner effects (e.g., the indirect effect of the maternal
items for the subscale of control include, ‘‘If I don’t behave family structure on children’s well-being through paternal
myself, my mother/father will punish me,’’ and ‘‘My parenting).
mother/father points out ways that I could do better.’’ The Both direct and indirect effects were estimated using a
model exhibited a good fit after freeing the covariance mediated structural equation model. Because a preliminary
between a similarly worded item in the latent construct for test indicated that our subsample deviated from the nor-
mothers and fathers (RMSEA = 0.05; CFI = 0.98; SRMR mality assumption, all models were estimated using MLR
= 0.03), and the composite reliability scores were 0.70 for estimation, which is suitable for non-normal data (Brown
mothers and 0.76 for fathers. 2006). Missing data on the dependent variables were
treated with full-information maximum likelihood (FIML).
Children’s Well-being Missing values exceeded 8 % for specific independent
variables (e.g., the presence of a new partner in the
We measured the well-being of children according to two household of the divorced parent). Multi-actor data proved
positive indicators. First, we used the Rosenberg (1965) highly useful in cases where information was missing, as it
Self-Esteem Scale to measure the children’s self-esteem. allowed missing information from one parent to be imputed
This scale contains 10 items, which children rated along a from information provided by the other parent. This sub-
five-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = stantially reduced the extent of missing data (from 10.4 to
strongly agree). Confirmatory factor analysis consistent 0.5 % for information on the new partner of the mother;
with the procedure detailed by Marsh (1996) revealed a from 13.9 to 2.5 % for information on the new partner of
single factor, with factor loadings ranging from 0.45 to the father). For all other independent variables, missing
0.73. To improve the model fit, an error covariance was data were treated with list wise deletion.

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188 2183

Mediated structural equation models allowed us to test With regard to the relationship between parenting and
both direct and indirect effects. We estimated the direct children’s well-being, we noted that maternal support
effects of the family structure on maternal and paternal enhanced both the self-esteem and the life satisfaction of
parenting, as well as on the children’s well-being, together children. The same was true for paternal support. For
with the indirect effects (using MODEL INDIRECT maternal and paternal control, no significant relationship
command in Mplus) of family structure through parenting with children’s well-being could be identified. When esti-
on children’s well-being. All estimated effects were con- mating the model with maternal and paternal control
trolled for various background characteristics of mothers, excluded, results did not differ, although the fit indices did
fathers, and children. Statistical analyses were performed indicate a better fit (RMSEA = 0.04; CFI = 0.91;
in Mplus 6 (Muthén and Muthén 2010). Each model gen- SRMR = 0.04).
erates standardized coefficients. With regard to the impact of family structure on chil-
dren’s well-being, no significant direct effects could be
noted, although various indirect effects were present.
Results According to the results, parenting did indeed mediate
between family structure and children’s well-being. In
The measurement model for all latent constructs is pre- relation to maternal support, the results revealed that living
sented in Fig. 1. For all parenting indicators (maternal with a residential father (whether single or repartnered) had
support and control, and paternal support and control) and a significant indirect effect on children’s self-esteem and
for children’s self-esteem, paths between the indicators and life satisfaction, through maternal support. In other words,
their latent constructs were sufficiently high (C0.42). The children living in residential-father families experienced
measurement model also exhibited an adequate model fit less maternal support, which indirectly led to lower levels
(RMSEA = 0.04; CFI = 0.92; SRMR = 0.05). Correla- of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
tions between latent constructs revealed that both maternal Several indirect effects emerged for paternal support.
and paternal support are significantly and positively related First, family structure had a negative indirect effect on
to children’s self-esteem. Moreover, maternal support was children’s self-esteem and life satisfaction, through paternal
significantly and positively related to paternal support, and support, for children living with residential single mothers.
the same was true for maternal and paternal control. These children experienced less paternal support, indicating
For a mediated model, it is necessary to identify rela- that living with residential single mothers affected their
tionships between independent, mediating and dependent well-being negatively. Second, family structure had a posi-
variables. Family structure should therefore be linked to tive indirect effect on children’s self-esteem and life satis-
parenting and to children’s well-being (either directly or faction, through paternal support, for children living with
indirectly for the latter). Moreover, parenting and children’s residential fathers (whether single or repartnered). Children
well-being should also be related to each other. Given the living with residential fathers experienced higher levels of
multitude of these relationships, we report only the signifi- paternal support, which affected their well-being in posi-
cant relationships. First, we investigated whether the impact tively, although the size of the indirect effects indicate that
of parenting on children’s well-being and the mediating role this result was outweighed by the reduction in support from
of parenting differed for various family structures after a the non-residential mother. No significant indirect effects
divorce, as compared to those of never-divorced parents were identified for either maternal or paternal control.
(reference category). Overall, the model indicated an ade- Overall, we can conclude from these findings that divorced
quate fit (RMSEA = 0.04; CFI = 0.88; SRMR = 0.05). families generally experienced a decline in support on the
As indicated in Fig. 2, family structure and parenting part of the non-residential parent, as compared to intact
were linked. We found that children living with residential families. The only exceptions were for families with
mothers experienced lower levels of paternal control than repartnered residential mothers.
did children with continuously married parents. Moreover, Second, we estimated a mediated structural equation
if the residential mother was single, the child also experi- model examining only post-divorce family structures,
enced a lower level of maternal control than did children taking single-mother families as the reference category.
with continuously married parents. Living with a residen- The overall model (presented in Fig. 3) showed a good fit
tial father proved to be positively related to paternal sup- (RMSEA = 0.04; CFI = 0.92; SRMR = 0.05). The
port but negatively related to maternal support, regardless results of this model revealed a close link between par-
of whether the residential father was single or living with a enting and post-divorce family structure. For children liv-
new partner. Children living in joint physical custody ing with residential fathers, in joint physical custody
arrangements reported lower levels of maternal control arrangements, or with repartnered residential mothers,
than did children with continuously married parents. fathers showed more support than was the case for children

2184 J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

ind1 0.48

ind2 0.55
ind3 support mother
0.28*** ind4
ind1 0.42
ind2 0.09
0.21*** 0.80
ind3 support father
ind4 0.73 0.09

ind5 0.02

0.46 0.07
control mother 0.33***

0.60 0.33***
0.22*** 0.62
control father
ind3 0.04
ind2 0.51

ind3 0.71

ind4 0.46

ind5 self-esteem child



0.44*** 0.60

Fig. 1 Measurement model for latent constructs

living with single residential mothers. With regard to effect on children’s self-esteem through paternal support,
maternal parenting, we found that children living with as compared to single-mother families. This indicates that
repartnered residential mothers experienced less maternal children growing up in family structures other than post-
control than did children living with single residential divorce single-mother families have more supportive
mothers. Concerning the link between parenting and chil- fathers, which enhances their self-esteem. No mediating
dren’s well-being, we found that having a supportive effects were found for maternal parenting. Overall, we can
mother and/or a supportive father led to higher self-esteem conclude that maternal support is important to the well-
for children. With regard to children’s satisfaction with being of children in divorced families and that its impact
life, our results indicated that higher levels of control on does not function as a mediator, whereas paternal support is
the part of fathers lead to lower levels of life satisfaction. also important for children’s well-being, and it does
The results revealed no direct or indirect effects for the function as a mediator in divorced families.
impact of family structure on children’s well-being in
terms of life satisfaction, indicating that children in dif-
ferent post-divorce family structures do not differ with Discussion
regard to life satisfaction. The results did reveal indirect
effects with regard to children’s self-esteem. For all post- Parenting has been identified as an important protective
divorce family structures (with the exception of single- factor for the well-being of children after parental divorce
mother families), family structure had a positive indirect (Amato 2000; Lansford 2009). It might also mediate

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188 2185

single, residential mother

-0.21*** support mother
-0.10* self-esteem
residential mother with -0.20*** 0.30*** child
new partner
-0.15** support father

joint -0.10* 0.27***

custody 0.25***

-0.17* control mother

single, residential father
life satisfaction
-0.17* 0.08* child
residenal father with
control father
new partner

Indirect effects N=599

single, residential mother-------------------paternal support----->self-esteem child: -0.06** χ²(585)=1155.114 RMSEA=0.040 CFI=0.881 SRMR=0.048
single, residential mother-------------------paternal support---->life sasfacon child: -0.05** *p<0.05**p<0.01 ***p<0.001

single, residential father---------------------maternal support---->self-esteem child: -0.05*

single, residential father---------------------paternal support----->self-esteem child: 0.02**
single, residential father---------------------maternal support---->life sasfacon child: -0.05*
single, residential father---------------------paternal support---->life sasfacon child: 0.02**

residential father with new partner------maternal support---->self-esteem child: -0.05*

residential father with new partner----- paternal support----->self-esteem child: 0.02**
residential father with new partner-------------------maternal support---->life sasfacon child: -0.05*
residential father with new partner-------------------paternal support---->life sasfacon child: 0.02**

Fig. 2 Mediated structural equation model (showing only significant results)

Fig. 3 Mediated structural equation model for post-divorce families only (showing only significant results)

between the family structure and children’s well-being. attention than paternal parenting has. In this study, we
Although previous studies have concentrated on parenting attempted to overcome these shortcomings by investigating
as a protective factor, they focus only on various parts of the mediating role of maternal and paternal parenting, in
the variation within the family structure after divorce. comparing the impact of intact and post-divorce family
Whereas some scholars investigated the impact of parental structures on children’s well-being, while taking into
repartnering, others concentrated on custodial arrange- account both custodial arrangements and maternal and
ments. Moreover, maternal parenting has received far more paternal repartnering after divorce. The study is based on a

2186 J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

dyadic approach, drawing on data from a subsample of the role of parenting, only paternal support was found to be an
multi-actor DiF dataset. important mediating factor for children’s self-esteem, as
According to our results, parenting did indeed mediate living in family structures other than single-mother fami-
between family structures and children’s well-being. lies increased paternal support, which in return increased
Compared to intact families, residential single-mother children’s self-esteem.
families were negatively related to paternal support, which Neither of the mediated models revealed evidence of a
led both directly and indirectly to lower levels of self- mediating function for parental control in relation to chil-
esteem and life satisfaction for children. Families with dren’s self-esteem and life satisfaction. This might be due
residential fathers (whether single or repartnered) were to the fact that the models addressed only positive indica-
positively related to paternal support, which subsequently tors of children’s well-being, based on the findings of other
had a positive impact on the self-esteem and life satisfac- studies on parenting and negative indicators of children’s
tion of children. Moreover, in comparison to intact fami- well-being, which revealed a relationship between parental
lies, maternal support was lower in residential-father control and those indicators of children’s well-being. In
families, thus leading to lower self-esteem and life satis- conclusion, the inclusion of both the custodial arrangement
faction for children. In line with our hypothesis, our results and the repartnering of both partners in our family-struc-
thus indicated that both maternal and paternal parenting are ture indicator revealed variation in the possible mecha-
important mediators in explaining the association between nisms at play with regard to parenting and children’s well-
family structure and children’s well-being. Overall, par- being. According to our results, loss of time spent with the
ental support (provided by both mothers and fathers) child was related to lower levels of parental support and
increased the well-being of children. Support from the non- control. The presence of a new partner made the parenting
residential parent decreased after a divorce (except in the of divorced parents in repartnered families comparable to
case of families with repartnered residential mothers), that of continuously married parents, even increasing the
which had a negative impact on children’s well-being. involvement of non-residential fathers. Moreover, our
When investigating only the differences between vari- analysis revealed that parental support (especially of the
ous types of post-divorce families, our results indicated that residential parent) was an important mediator between
support from the father was particularly related to post- family structure and the well-being of children.
divorce family structure. Compared to single-mother fam- As formulated by Amato (2000), the divorce-stress-ad-
ilies, fathers demonstrated significantly higher levels of justment perspective emphasizes the protective role that
support in all other family types. This result could be parenting can play in the well-being of children after a
explained by two mechanisms: residential fathers and joint- parental divorce. In this regard, Amato refers to the par-
custody fathers see their children more often than non- enting of the residential parent (usually the mother). Our
residential fathers do, and this provides them with more results confirmed that the parenting of the residential parent
opportunities to support their children, as argued by par- is a protective factor. In addition to Amato’s model,
ental resource theory (Thomson et al. 1994). For non-res- however, our findings revealed that the parenting of the
idential fathers whose children are living with the new non-residential parent can function as either a risk factor or
partners of their mothers, it could be that competition with a protective factor for children’s well-being, depending
the new parental figure in the child’s life and household upon the post-divorce family structure. This study thus
stimulates the parental involvement of non-residential provided clear evidence of the importance of expanding the
fathers, with the rivalry possibly increasing paternal focus of research beyond the parenting of the residential
support. parent (usually the mother) to include the parenting of the
In contrast, we found no differences in maternal support non-residential parent (usually the father) as well when
between the various post-divorce family structures. All of investigating the role of parenting as a protective or risk
the divorced mothers in our subsample demonstrated rel- factor. Our findings also demonstrated the importance of
atively similar levels of support. Nevertheless, maternal considering variations in family structure. Future research
support remained important to children’s well-being after should therefore address the complexity in family structure.
divorce. With regard to maternal control, we did find that Overall, the results of this study are highly consistent with
mothers living with new partners were less controlling than recent insights that define families according to their
single mothers were, which could be explained by possible actions rather than according to their location (Morgan
role conflict and the division of time between the children 2011).
and the new partners (Adamson and Pasley 2006). Overall, Despite the contributions of this study, the results should
both maternal and paternal support increased the self-es- be viewed with caution in light of their limitations. First,
teem of children, although only paternal control decreased due to the small numbers in some categories of family
their satisfaction with life. With regard to the mediating structure (i.e., residential-father families), we did not

J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188 2187

distinguish between divorced parents who had remarried References

and those who were cohabiting with new partners. We can
nevertheless assume that actual living situations are more Adamson, K., & Pasley, K. (2006). Coparenting following divorce
and relationship dissolution. In M. A. Fine & J. H. Harvey
important with regard to parenting and the well-being of
(Eds.), Handbook of divorce and relationship dissolution (pp.
children than are legal situations (cf. custodial arrange- 241–261). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
ments), given that alterations in actual family structures Amato, P. R. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and
can lead to alterations in family functioning and family children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1269–1287.
Amato, P. R. (2005). The impact of family formation change on the
roles (Cavanagh 2008). Moreover, the small number of
cognitive, social, and emotional well-being of the next gener-
residential-father families in our subsample requires a ation. The Future of Children, 15, 75–96.
careful interpretation of the results for these family types. Arránz Becker, O., Brüderl, J., Buhr, P., Castiglioni, L., Fub, D.,
Second, our analyses and results are based on cross-sec- Ludwig, V., et al. (2012). The German Family Panel: Study
Design and Cumulated Field Report (Waves 1 to 3). Pairfam
tional data, and they provide only a snapshot of the medi-
Technical paper 01. Germany: Pairfam.
ating role that parenting played at a certain point in time. Bastaits, K., Ponnet, K., & Mortelmans, D. (2012). Parenting of
Future research should study the mediating role of parenting divorced fathers and the association with children’s self-esteem.
from a longitudinal viewpoint, in order to investigate whe- Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 1643–1656.
Bastaits, K., Ponnet, K., & Mortelmans, D. (2014). Do divorced
ther this mediating role changes over time. Longitudinal
fathers matter? The impact of parenting styles of divorced
data on family transitions, parenting, and children’s well- fathers on the well-being of the child. Journal of Divorce and
being would allow future researchers to investigate whether Remarriage, 55, 1–27.
the mediating role of parenting changes in response to Bastaits, K., van Peer, C., & Mortelmans, D. (2013). Ouderlijke
opvoedingsstijlen na echtscheiding. In M. Corijn & C. van Peer
family transitions, whether the length of time since a family
(Eds.), Gezinstransities in Vlaanderen (pp. 309–330). Brussel:
transition plays a role, and whether parenting continues to Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering, SVR-Studie 2.
affect the well-being of children as they grow older. Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent
A third limitation of our study has to do with the specific competence and substance use. The Journal of Early Adoles-
cence, 11, 56–95.
DiF sample, which does not include parents who were
Baumrind, D. (2013). Authoritative parenting revisited: History and
never married. In Western European countries, the number current status. In E. Larzelere, A. S. Morris, & A. W. Harrist
of parents who cohabited and possibly separated after (Eds.), Authoritative parenting. Synthesizing nurturance and
cohabitation without ever having been married is increas- discipline for optimal child development (pp. 11–34). Washing-
ton: American Psychological Association.
ing. Future research should therefore investigate the
Ben-Arieh, A. (2000). Beyond welfare: Measuring and monitoring the
mediating role of parenting for post-separation family state of children—new trends and domains. Social Indicators
structures and children’s well-being. Research, 52, 235–257.
Despite these limitations, this study contributes to the Ben-Arieh, A., & Frønes, I. (2011). Taxonomy for child well-being
indicators: A framework for the analysis of the well-being of
existing literature by incorporating both the custodial
children. Childhood, 18, 460–476.
arrangement and the repartnering of both parents in post- Bjarnason, T., Bendtsen, P., Arnarsson, A. M., Borup, I., Iannotti, R.
divorce family structures, as well as by taking a dyadic J., Löfstedt, P., et al. (2012). Life satisfaction among children in
approach that includes both maternal and paternal parent- different family structures: A comparative study of 36 Western
societies. Children and Society, 26, 51–62.
ing as mediating factors. In this respect, it extends the
Bronte-Tinkew, J., Scott, M. E., & Lilja, E. (2010). Single custodial
divorce-stress-adjustment perspective developed by Amato fathers’ involvement and parenting: implications for outcomes in
(2000), which originally specified a mediating role only for emerging adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72,
the parenting of the custodial parent (usually the mother). 1107–1127.
Brown, S. L. (2006a). Family structure transitions and adolescent
The results revealed that the parenting of the residential
well-being. Demography, 43, 447–461.
parent played a protective role for the self-esteem and life Brown, T. A. (2006b). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied
satisfaction of children and that the parenting of the non- research. New York: The Guilford Press.
residential parent could serve as either a risk or protective Campana, K. L., Henderson, S., Stolberg, A. L., & Schum, L. (2008).
Paired maternal and paternal parenting styles, child custody and
factor for these indicators of children’s well-being,
children’s emotional adjustment to divorce. Journal of Divorce
depending upon the post-divorce family structure. When and Remarriage, 48, 1–20.
investigating the well-being of children, therefore, it is Cantril, H. (1965). The pattern of human concern. New Brunswick:
important to consider the parenting of both parents, even Rutgers University Press.
Cavanagh, S. E. (2008). Family structure history and adolescent
after divorce.
adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 944–980.
Chan, T. W., & Koo, A. (2011). Parenting style and youth outcomes
Acknowledgments The research leading to these results has in the UK. European Sociological Review, 27, 385–399.
received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York:
Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under Grant agreement no. 320116 for Scribner’s.
the research project Families And Societies.

2188 J Child Fam Stud (2016) 25:2178–2188

Cox, M. J., & Paley, B. (1997). Families as systems. Annual Review McLeod, B. D., Weisz, J. R., & Wood, J. J. (2007). Examining the
of Psychology, 48, 243–267. association between parenting and childhood depression: A
Darling, N., & Toyokawa, T. (1997). Construction and validation of meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 986–1003.
the parenting style inventory II (PSI-II). Pennsylvania: The Melli, M. S. (1999). Guideline review: child support and time sharing
Pennsylvania State University, department of human develop- by parents. Family Law Quarterly, 33, 219–234.
ment and family studies. Milevsky, A., Schlechter, M., Nettr, S., & Keehn, D. (2007). Maternal
Diener, E., & Diener, M. (1995). Cross-cultural correlates of life and paternal parenting style in adolescents : Associations with
satisfaction and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social self-esteem, depression and life-satisfaction. Journal of Child
Psychology, 68, 653–663. and Family Studies, 16, 39–47.
Dykstra, P. A., Kalmijn, M., Knijn, T. C. M., Komter, A. E., Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA:
Liefbroer, A. C., & Mulder, C. H. (2005). Codebook of the Harvard University Press.
Netherlands Kinship Panel Study, a multi-actor, multi-method Morgan, D. J. H. (2011). Locating ‘family practices’. Sociological
panel study on solidarity in family relationships, Wave 1. NKPS Research Online, 16, 1–9.
Working Paper No. 4. The Hague: Netherlands Interdisciplinary Mortelmans, D., Pasteels, I., van Bavel, J., Bracke, P., Matthijs, K., &
Demographic Institute. van Peer, C. (2011). Divorce in Flanders. Data collection and
Eurostat. (2012). Divorces per 1 000 persons. From [http://epp. code book. http://www.divorceinflanders.be.
eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/population/data/main_ Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2010). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.).
tables]. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.
Gibson-Davis, C. M. (2008). Family structure effects on maternal and Ozen, D. S. (2004). The impact of interparental divorce on adult
paternal parenting in low-income families. Journal of Marriage attachment styles and perceived parenting styles of adolescents.
and Family, 70, 452–465. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 40, 129–149.
Henderson, S. H., & Taylor, L. C. (1999). Parent-adolescent Pasteels, I., Mortelmans, D., & Van Bavel, J. (2011). Steekproef en
relationships in nonstep-, simple step- and complex stepfamilies. dataverzameling. In D. Mortelmans, I. Pasteels, P. Bracke, K.
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Matthijs, J. Van Bavel, & C. Van Peer (Eds.), Scheiding in
64, 79–100. Vlaanderen (pp. 85–112). Leuven: Acco.
Hetherington, E. M. (2006). The influence of conflict, marital problem Robson, K. (2010). Changes in family structure and the well-being of
solving and parenting on children’s adjustment in nondivorced, British children: Evidence from a 15-year panel study. Child
divorced and remarried families. In A. Clarke-Stewart & J. Dunn Indicators Research, 3, 65–83.
(Eds.), Families count. Effects on child and adolescent devel- Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image.
opment (pp. 203–237). Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Press. Smyth, B., & Moloney, L. (2008). Changes in patterns of post-
Hetherington, E. M., & Stanley-Hagen, M. M. (1999). The adjustment separation parenting over time: A brief review. Journal of
of children with divorced parents: a risk and resiliency perspec- Family Studies, 14, 7–22.
tive. Journal of Child Psychiatry, 40, 129–140. Sodermans, A. K., & Matthijs, K. (2014). Joint physical custody and
Huebner, E. S., Gilman, R., & Laughlin, J. E. (1998). A multimethod adolescents’ subjective well-being: A personality 9 environment
investigation of the multidimensionality of children’s well-being interaction. Journal of Family Psychology,. doi:10.1037/
reports: discriminant validity of life satisfaction and self-esteem. a0036713. (Advance Online Publication).
Social Indicators Research, 46, 1–22. Sodermans, A. K., Matthijs, K., & Swicegood, G. (2013). Charac-
Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). Dyadic data teristics of joint physical custody families in Flanders. Demo-
analysis. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. graphic Research, 28, 821–848.
King, V., & Sobolewski, J. M. (2006). Nonresident fathers’ contri- Stewart, S. D. (2003). Nonresident parenting and adolescent adjust-
butions to adolescent well-being. Journal of Marriage and ment. The quality of nonresident father–child interaction.
Family, 68, 537–557. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 217–244.
Langton, C. E., & Berger, L. M. (2011). Family structure and Suldo, S. M., & Huebner, S. E. (2004). The role of life satisfaction in
adolescent physical health, behavior and emotional well-being. the relationship between authoritative parenting dimensions and
Social Service Review, 85, 323–357. adolescent problem behavior. Social Indicators Research, 66,
Lansford, J. E. (2009). Parental divorce and children’s adjustment. 165–195.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 140–152. Thomson, E., Hanson, T. L., & McLanahan, S. S. (1994). Family
Lee, M. Y. (2002). A model of children’s post-divorce behavioral structure and child well-being: Economic resources versus
adjustment in maternal- and dual-residence arrangements. Jour- parental behaviors. Social Forces, 73, 221–242.
nal of Family Issues, 23, 672–697. Thomson, E., Mosley, J., Hanson, T. L., & McLanahan, S. S. (2001).
Lengua, L. J., Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I. N., & West, S. G. (2000). Remarriage, cohabitation and changes in mother behavior.
The additive and interactive effects of parenting and tempera- Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 370–380.
ment in predicting adjustment problems of children of divorce. Vandoorne, J., Decaluwe, L., & Vandemeulebroecke, L. (2000). Het
Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 232–244. gezin. In H. De Witte, J. Hooghe, & L. Walgrave (Eds.),
Levin, K. A., & Currie, C. (2010). Family structure, mother–child Jongeren in Vlaanderen: gemeten en geteld (pp. 59–79). Leuven:
communication, father child-communication and adolescent life Universitaire Pers Leuven.
satisfaction. Health Education, 110, 152–168. Verhoeven, M., Junger, M., van Aken, C., Dekovic, M., & van Aken,
Levin, K. A., Dallago, L., & Currie, C. (2012). The association M. A. G. (2010). Mothering, fathering and externalizing
between adolescent life satisfaction, family structure, family behavior in toddler boys. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72,
affluence and gender differences in parent-child communication. 307–317.
Social Indicators Research, 106, 287–305. Wood, J. J., Repetti, R. L., & Roesch, S. C. (2004). Divorce and
Marsh, H. W. (1996). Positive and negative global self-esteem: A children’s adjustment problems at home and school: The role of
substantively meaningful distinction or artifactors? Journal of depressive/withdrawn parenting. Child Psychology and Human
Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 810–819. Development, 35, 121–142.