Despite the concern about teens and excessive screen time, a new study finds that social media bolsters parent-child relationships after divorce.
A study from Kansas State University published in the Journal of Family Issues explored the resiliency of children between ages ten and 18 whose parents were divorced. The study reflects data from 392 divorced fathers and mothers in the United States.
Researchers were interested in understanding how social media might impact parent-child relationships in three types of post-divorce co-parenting environments, including:
- Cooperative settings
- Moderately engaged parents
- Conflicted and disengaged parents
These common co-parenting styles have long been thought to influence the ability of children to adapt after divorce. The study took a deep dive into how contact using Facebook, texting, or other social media might impact the personal parent-child relationship, regardless of post-divorce context.
The study evaluated three aspects of the parent-child relationship after divorce. These included the warmth between a parent and their child, parental knowledge of the child, and inconsistent discipline by the parent.
The study found that social media helped children develop a sense of ownership of their relationship with their parent, as well as enhanced their warmth and connection. By using texting and other social media, parents had more knowledge of the lives of their children, which made it easier to stay involved.
One of the study authors, Dr. Mindy Markham, noted, “Parental warmth and closeness, parents’ knowledge about their kids and inconsistent discipline didn’t differ among three different types of divorced co-parenting relationships. What did make a difference was the contact that the parents had with the youth. Essentially, the more contact that parents had with their kids was better regardless of the parents’ relationship with each other.”
While the relationship between parents after divorce has a strong impact on how children perceive themselves and their future, this study suggests that children with the free agency to connect with a parent via social media could become more socially and emotionally resilient. Study authors note this enhanced connection was not seen between children and parents who were effectively disengaged, defined as monthly contact or less.
Healthy relationships between children and both parents are important. Said Dr. Markham, “If it is possible for parents to cooperate, obviously, that would be ideal, but there are situations where they can’t and I think this research is saying you can still have a good parent-child relationship even if the relationship with your ex can’t work.”
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