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Extension > Family > Parents Forever™ > Research > What is the Parents Forever™ theory of change? > Parental well-being

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What is the Parents Forever™ theory of change?


Parental well-being

Just as children are impacted both positively and negatively by family transitions, adults are too. A central tenet of the Parents Forever™ program is that parental well-being matters.

Parents who possess greater resilience during and after the divorce and separation process can draw on a greater wealth of emotional, psychological, and material resources as they parent and coparent their children. Greater resources to draw from increases the likelihood of successful and effective parenting, coparenting, and consequently, better outcomes for children and families.

However, it is not enough to focus on parental well-being as a pathway to child well-being. It is also important to address parental well-being as something intrinsically important in its own right. Stronger parents make stronger communities. Through this emphasis, we further the Extension mission of “ensuring Minnesota communities are strong.” (See About Extension.)

Following are some examples of research on the effects of divorce, separation, or custody change on parent well-being.

Divorce Financially Affects Both Men and Women

Type of study: Followed adults over time and focused on those in the sample who divorced between 2004 and 2010 (n=6,639; Sharma, 2014)


Parents Who Go Through Divorce or Separation Are More Likely to Experience Symptoms of Depression

Type of study: Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (Kamp Dush, 2013)

Results: Parents whose relationship, either marital or cohabitating, dissolved (compared to those whose relationships remained intact) experienced a greater increase in symptoms of depression than compared with parents whose relationship remained intact.

Financial Stress Impacts Kids

Type of study: Overview of published research (Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010)

Results: When parents’ financial hardship and stress decreases, children’s outcomes improve

When Parents do Better, Kids do Better and Vice Versa

Type of study: Overview of published research (Kelly, 2012)

Results: The psychological adjustment of the primary custodial parent (or both parents if custody is shared equally) is one of the strongest predictors of outcomes for children.


Conger, R. D., Conger, K. J., & Martin, M. J. (2010). Socioeconomic Status, Family Processes, and Individual Development. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 685–704.

Kamp Dush, C. M. (2013). Marital and Cohabitation Dissolution and Parental Depressive Symptoms in Fragile Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75(1), 91–109.

Kelly, J. B. (2012). Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Child and Adolescent Adjustment Following Separation and Divorce. In K. Kuehnle & L. Drozd (Eds.), Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court (pp. 49-84). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Sharma, A. (2015). Divorce/Separation in Later-Life: A Fixed Effects Analysis of Economic Well-Being by Gender. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 36(2), 299-306.

Related resources

Parent-child relationships — Review how divorce, separation, and custody change can affect the relationships parents have with their children.

Coparenting relationships — Find out how coparenting relationships can effect child and family well-being.

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