Promoting resilience among vulnerable families
Mallette, Jacquelyn Kenann
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The study of resilience from a family science perspective necessitates identifying family-level components that can promote individual and family resilience, as well as specifying contextual influences (Walsh, 2003). This dissertation introduces a conceptual model to explain how individual-, family-, and community-level contextual factors may influence coparental and paternal behaviors among vulnerable families who have experienced adversity. Major stressors, such as adolescent parenthood and non-marital childbearing, can derail the functioning of a family system and affect all members and their relationships. However, positive and supportive family relational processes, such as cooperative coparenting behaviors and positive father caretaking and involvement, can reduce the risk of dysfunction and support adaptation over time. In the current document, two studies investigated relationships between contextual factors, the interactive nature of the coparenting relationship and father involvement, and maternal functioning in two samples of distinct vulnerable family environments. The first study examined coparental relationship patterns among 125 adolescent mothers, as well as maternal and paternal covariates utilizing a 3-step latent profile analysis. Results indicated three unique patterns of coparenting based on adolescent mothers’ reports, which were associated with indicators of social, financial and human capital and between-group differences in parenting outcomes. The second study examined a sample of 1693 unmarried mothers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study using bidirectional latent growth curve analysis. Results indicated a bidirectional influence of coparenting and father involvement, in that baseline coparenting support influenced the trajectory of father involvement, while initial father involvement also influenced rates of change in coparenting support over time. Results also indicated that declines in father involvement and coparenting support influenced maternal functioning when her child was nine. Collectively, findings offer insight into how context and the coparental relationship are related to fathers’ engagement in caregiving and maternal well-being. Results aid in better understanding co-caregiving dynamics and also contribute information towards efforts to grow and support family stability across differing populations.