Symposium 2: Moving on to Work Together: Separating Parents’ ‘Emotional Readiness’ to Co-parent

  • 3:30 pm To 5:00 pm on July 18, 2019
  • Terrace Room Bramber House

Moving on to Work Together: Separating Parents’ ‘Emotional Readiness’ to Co-parent

This symposium introduces the new construct of Emotional Readiness in parental separation. Emotional reactions to separation can impair the ability to deal with the pragmatics of the situation, including co-parenting. Furthermore, engaging in legally binding negotiations before being emotionally ready to do so can have negative outcomes for all concerned. These talks describe: i) the social-legal context of emotional readiness; ii) the development of the Emotional Readiness Assessment; iii) its nomological network; iv) the feasibility of using the ERA in applied settings; and iv) behavioural outcomes associated with emotional readiness. Real-world implications and the future research agenda are discussed throughout.

Behavioural Outcomes of Emotional Readiness and Future Research Agenda

The feasibility and validity of using the ERA to measure emotional readiness in separating has been presented in the preceding studies. Here, we address whether emotional readiness is predictive of meaningful behavioural outcomes. In Study 1, ERA scores of separated parents are compared against their ability to write an effective parenting plan. In Study 2, ERA scores of separated parents are compared against court outcome variables. Both studies are currently underway. Discussion will focus on real world implications of the ERA as a predictive tool, as well as the key lessons from the whole symposium, and a future research agenda.

Feasibility and Utility of Measuring Emotional Readiness in Real-World Conflict Resolution Settings

Research has shown that the ERA can be used to measure emotional readiness in separated parents in the context of a research study. Here, we examine the feasibility of using the ERA in practice, in real-world settings. We describe two studies in which we i) examine the settings in which the ERA could be used for assessing clients’ emotional readiness; and ii) examine how well the ERA performs in real-world setting, compared to professional judgement. An appropriate context was identified to test the ERA, and concordance between professional judgement and ERA cut-offs was good, indicating that the measure is valid.

Nomological Network of Emotional Readiness Following Break-up

Following separation, continued contact with an ex-partner (e.g. when there are children) can result in relationship-relevant negative affect being maintained. The ability to ‘resolve’ ones’ emotional reaction to a break-up may therefore differ between couples that do and do not have children. Here, we explore the nomological network of the construct in non-parent separation. Non-parent participants who had experienced a relationship break-up (n=199) took part in an online study. Analysis examined the nomological network of emotional readiness. Emotional readiness is positively associated with positive personality constructs as well as positive, mindful, and acceptance-based coping strategies following a relationship break-up.

The Emotional Readiness Assessment: Scale Development and Psychometric Properties

The ability to make effective co-parenting agreements, and to reduce conflict following divorce depends on a person’s emotional readiness. However, there exists no established method of measuring emotional readiness as a psychological construct. Here, we describe the development and psychometric properties of the Emotional Readiness Assessment. In Study 1 (n=573) we identify the factor structure of the ERA, and examine face validity. In Study 2, we benchmark high, mid, and low cut-offs of the ERA against co-parenting self-reports. Overall, findings demonstrate that emotional readiness is negatively associated with psychological distress, stress, and attachment insecurity, and positively related to co-parenting.

The Socio-Legal and Support Context for Emotional Readiness

In recent years, there have been attempts to encourage divorcing and separating couples to use out-of-court pathways to agree arrangements without involving British courts. Separating parents’ ‘emotional readiness’ to do so has been identified as a key factor in the success of such pathways to family justice. This talk outlines the socio-legal context of parental separation and associated support in England. The value of being able to measure emotional readiness in separating parents to target appropriate support will also be discussed, along with the implications of forthcoming changes to divorce law.