Coparenting and children’s adjustment to divorce: The role of geographical distance from fathers

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After divorce, shorter distances between parents’ homes are often seen as facilitating nonresident fathers’ involvement with their children, good coparenting practices and children’s well-being. However, few studies have explored how geographical distance relates to coparenting and children’s adjustment. Moreover, the direction of causality remains unclear, as uninvolved fathers due to paternal disinterest, maternal gatekeeping or interparental conflict are more likely to move farther away from their children. Based on a probability sample of 144 divorced mothers of school-aged children living in Geneva, Switzerland, this study explores how the distance between parents’ homes relates to maternal promotion of the father-child relationship (cohesive coparenting) and children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes. Results show that cohesive coparenting relates more to frequent father-child contacts by phone or emails than to residential proximity. Both cohesive coparenting and fathers’ residential proximity have positive and independent effects on children’s adjustment. Children whose fathers live nearby exhibit less behavioural difficulties and more pro-social behaviour than children whose fathers live far away. These findings suggest that frequent contacts by phone or emails can substitute for distance in coparenting, but geographical proximity still matters for fathers’ contribution to children’s well-being. Overall, this study recommends that spatial and mobility dimensions should receive more attention in divorce research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-526
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number7
Early online date9 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • distance
  • proximity
  • nonresident fathers
  • father-child relationship
  • divorce
  • children's adjustment
  • coparenting
  • telecommunications


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