Background Parental relationship dissolutions have repeatedly been linked to negative outcomes for children, but predictors of parental dissolutions have been far less studied. Knowledge about parental dissolutions occurring after the early years of parenthood is especially sparse. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether a broad set of predictors from families of toddlers were associated with relationship dissolutions throughout the next 17 years of parenthood. We specifically investigated whether different predictors were associated with short and long term dissolutions; and whether associations with long term dissolutions were mediated by relationship dissatisfaction or child-rearing conflicts. Methods Questionnaire data from 500 married or cohabiting mothers participating in a longitudinal population based study, the Norwegian TOPP study, was used. Child related strains, positive and negative aspects of relationship quality, and other intrinsic, environmental, and socio-demographic factors were assessed when children were 18 months old. Associations between early predictors and early dissolution (before children were 8 years old) and late dissolutions (when children were between 8 and 19 years) were compared using multinomial logistic regression analyses. Indirect paths from early predictors through relationship satisfaction and child-rearing conflicts to late dissolutions were investigated among couples that were still intact when children were 8 years old. Results Expression of criticism and most socio-demographic variables were associated with early dissolutions only, while temperamental sociability and child related strains were associated with long term dissolutions only in the adjusted regression models. Low levels of emotional support predicted both early and late dissolutions. Associations from low emotional support and child related strains to long term dissolutions were mediated by relationship dissatisfaction, indicating that cascades towards dissolutions may originate in these early predictors. No indirect paths were identified from early predictors through child-rearing conflicts, indicating that low levels of positivity, rather than high conflict levels, are associated with dissolutions in long-term relationships. Conclusions Predictors of dissolutions over the next 17 years could be identified among mothers of toddlers. Different predictors were associated with early and late dissolutions, indicating different cascades.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International