Parenting Time, Parenting Quality, Interparental Conflict, and Mental Health Problems of Children in High-Conflict Divorce

Karey L. O'Hara, Irwin N. Sandler, Sharlene A. Wolchik, Jenn Yun Tein, C. Aubrey Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite widespread acknowledgment that "frequent, continuing, and meaningful" (Pruett & DiFonzo, 2014) time with both parents is beneficial for children from divorced or separated families, and that interparental conflict (IPC) is associated with increased child mental health problems, the joint effects of parenting time (PT), parenting quality (PQ), and IPC on children's mental health problems are less clear. The current study integrates two theoretical models in multiple mediator analyses to test indirect effects of mothers' and fathers' PQ and IPC to explain the association between PT and children's mental health problems within the same model. Participants were children aged 9-18 years (N = 141) who had one or both parents participate in a randomized comparative effectiveness trial of a court-based prevention program for high-conflict divorcing or separating families. Data were collected at pretest and 9-month follow-up. Analyses revealed an indirect effect in which fathers' PQ mediated the association between PT and child internalizing problems both concurrently and 9 months later. There were no significant indirect effects involving IPC. Analyses indicated a significant quadratic relation between PT and fathers' PQ, suggesting that although more PT is associated with better father- child relationships, there is a point beyond which more time is not related to a better relationship. We discuss the study findings, research limitations, and implications for public policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Child mental health
  • Divorce/separation
  • Interparental conflict
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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