Manuela Naldini Arianna Santero Eugenia Mercuri

Co-parenting styles as family practices after parental break-up in Italy

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Drawing on Morgan’s conceptualization of family practices, the paper investigates the relationship between joint child custody arrangements and everyday post-separation co-parenting activities and routines. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 40 separated mothers and fathers in Italy, 14 of whom are former partners. Interviewees are mainly dual-earner, heterosexual, and have children under 10 years old. From a life course perspective, post-separation practices highlight the relevance of ongoing everyday transformations and agency along post-separation life trajectories and events such as the presence of new partners or changes in working conditions. Post-separation co-parenting differ in two main dimensions: how activities and responsibilities for the child(ren) are shared, and co-parenting practices. On this basis, three main post-separation parenting styles can be identified: «parallel», «cooperative» and «competitive» co-parenting. Though the three styles can be distinguished at the analytical level, they tend to lie along a continuum. They may change over time or even become more similar in long-lasting post-separation parenting practices. Gendered expectations around the meanings and sharing of parental responsibilities tend to persist and vary according to these co-parenting styles only to some extent. The results are of interest in a context such as Italy, with persistent gender asymmetries. These findings suggest theoretical implications for the creative role of the family practices framework in going beyond «good divorce» functionalist approaches


  • co-parenting
  • post-separation practices
  • shared parenting
  • joint child custody
  • life courses
  • Italy


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