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MIZZOU RESEARCHERS: Study how divorced parents become high tech saboteurs

Email, texting, social media can harm -- or help -- relationships with children
 
COLUMBIA, 9/19/12 (Beat Byte) -- Hostile divorced and separated couples routinely use email, texting and social media to sabotage relationships with their children, University of Missouri family studies expert Lawrence Ganong has found. 
 
But those same high tech tools can also strengthen or sustain relationships in broken families.

"Technology makes it easier for divorced couples to get along, and it also makes it easier for them not to get along," says Ganong.  "Parents who use technology effectively can make co-parenting easier, which places less stress on the children. Parents who use communication technology to manipulate or withhold information from the other parent can cause pain to the child."

Information technology (IT) is now so prevalent in family breakups, Ganong explains, that divorce counselors, mediators, and family law attorneys should add its effective use to the coping skills they teach separated parents.

For a study published in the journal Family Relations, Ganong, Mizzou co-authors Marilyn Coleman, Richard Feistman and Tyler Jamison, and Melinda Markham from Kansas State University interviewed 49 divorced parents.

Cooperative parents used IT to coordinate child care and share information about their children’s activities.  But hostile parents used IT to manipulate ex-spouses and limit communication. 

Although his research suggests that hostile partners use technology to increase hostility, with the right training they could use it to improve their relationships.
 
Take email -- "a great resource for hostile parents who can’t talk face-to-face," Ganong says. "They can communicate essential information while editing what they say to avoid conflict, and have a record of what was agreed upon."
 
 
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