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Communication privacy management of coparents concerning post-divorce dating

Dissertation
Author: Aimee E. Miller
Abstract:
Although the complexity of post-divorce communication has garnered recent research attention across disciplines (Ahrons, 2007; Afifi & Schrodt, 2003b; Baum, 2004; Graham, 2003; Masheter, 1997a, 1997b), little is known about how coparents communicate and manage issues of privacy with one another. Former spouses who interact to raise their children struggle with maintaining privacy over their personal lives and sufficient openness they believe necessary to effectively coparent. As many coparents begin dating before or immediately after divorce (Anderson et al., 2004), it is important to understand how coparents interact and manage dating information with one another to minimize conflict and maintain effective coparenting relationships. The researcher adopted the interpretive paradigm to answer two research questions: How, if at all, do coparents disclose information to one another about their post-divorce dating? How, if at all, do coparents develop and enact communication privacy rules with one another to create and negotiate their privacy boundaries regarding post-divorce dating? The researcher conducted 35 interviews with divorced coparents. Using Smith's (1995) process of thematic analysis, Communication Privacy Management (CPM) (Petronio, 2002) was engaged as an organizing framework (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to understand participants' privacy management concerning dating information. Results indicated that participants relied on direct disclosures, third-party disclosures, and inferences to reveal dating information, and developed and enacted individual dating privacy rules without negotiating rules with their coparents. Coparents managed intersected boundaries and reported experiencing limited boundary turbulence. Issues of rule negotiation and the exercise of control, strategic communication in privacy management, and quality coparenting through direct disclosure were salient in the interviews, and the researcher addresses the implications of these issues for the study of post-divorce communication. The researcher also provides insight in improving post-divorce communication by suggesting coparents wait longer to start new dating relationships, use the divorce decree to guide post-divorce interactions, and use email as a channel of communication. The researcher calls for CPM to address the difficulty in coordinating privacy boundaries when gaining information through inferences.

v TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE CHAPTER ONE:ARGUMENT FOR THE STUDY 1 Post-Divorce Coparenting Communication 5 Quality of Communication in Coparenting Relationships 7 Renegotiation of Communication Rules in Post-Divorce Coparenting Relationships 11 Renegotiation of Coparents’ Privacy and Disclosure Rules 16 Coparents’ Communication about Post-Divorce Dating 19 Pilot Study 26 Findings fromthe Pilot Study 26 Implications of the Pilot Study for the Present Study 27 Communication Privacy Management 28 Overview of Theory 29 Suppositions Guiding Theory 29 Privacy Rule Management Processes 34 Communication Privacy Management in Marital and Family Systems 39 Research Questions 42 CHAPTER TWO:METHODS AND PROCEDURES 45 Assumptions of the Interpretive Paradigm 45 Rationale for Qualitative Methods and Interviewing 45 Participant Criteria and Recruitment 48

vi Participant Criteria 48 Participation Recruitment Procedures 49 Data Collection Procedures 50 Data Analysis Procedures 53 Thematic Analysis 53 Verification 55 CHAPTER THREE:DISCLOSURE STRATEGIES AND RESPONSES TO COPARENTS’ DATING INFORMATION 58 Introduction to Chapters Three,Four,and Five 58 Overview of Chapter Three 59 Nature of Dating Conversations 61 Strategies for Revealing Dating Information 67 Direct Disclosures 68 Brief Disclosures 70 Buffered Meetings 72 Introductions as Revelations 75 Responses to Direct Disclosures 78 Seek More Information fromCoparents 78 Offer Advice 80 Express Lack of Interest 82 Third-Party Disclosures 85 Children as Third Parties 86 Social Network Members as Third Parties 89

vii Responses to Third-Party Disclosures 92 Confront Coparents 92 Seek More Information fromThird Parties 96 Seek More Information fromCoparents 98 Drawing Inferences 101 Inferred Dating Information 101 Inferred Relational Information 104 Responses to Drawing Inferences 106 Seek Clarification 107 Ignore the Information 108 A Discussion of Revealing Strategies and Responses 110 CHAPTER FOUR:PRIVACY RULES GUIDING BOUNDARIES AROUND COPARENTS’ DATING INFORMATION 120 Overview of Chapter Four 120 Privacy Rule Development 121 Motivational Criteria 124 Protect the Other Coparent’s Feelings 124 Post-Divorce Needs 127 Autonomy fromCoparents 127 Harmony with Coparents 128 Relational Definition 130 Reciprocal Dating Disclosures 132 Contextual Criteria 134

viii Degree of Intimacy in Disclosures 134 Functionality of Disclosures 137 Frequency of Disclosures 139 Alternate Channels for Disclosure 141 Risk-Benefit Ratio Criteria 144 Role Risks 144 Relational Risks 146 Security Risks 149 Confidant Characteristics 151 Trustworthiness 152 Willingness to Engage in Interactions 154 Intersected Boundary Coordination 156 Intersected Boundary Goal Linkage 157 Intersected Boundary Permeability 159 Intersected Boundary Ownership 161 Boundary Turbulence 164 Fuzzy Boundaries 165 Intentional Rule Violations 168 A Discussion of Privacy Rule Development 172 CHAPTER FIVE:DISCUSSION 178 Implications for Research on Post-Divorce Communication 180 Rule Negotiation and the Exercise of Control 181 Strategic Communication in Privacy Management 184

ix Quality Coparenting through Direct Disclosure 187 Implications for Coparents and Professionals 194 Waiting Period before Dating 196 Divorce Decree as a Coparenting Guide 197 Email as an Alternative Tool for Interaction 198 Potential Limitations 199 Future Goals for Researchers 201 REFERENCES 204 APPENDIX A:TRANSCRIPTIONIST CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT 222 APPENDIX B:PERSONAL INFORMATION FORM 223 APPENDIX C:INTERVIEWPROTOCOL 226

1 CHAPTER ONE:ARGUMENT FOR THE STUDY In their studies of divorce,researchers have demonstrated that former spouses rarely cut all ties with one another but instead maintain relationships post-divorce. Ganong and Coleman (2004) revealed that fromhalf to a majority of former spouses interacted at least occasionally.Former spouses provide many reasons for staying in contact with one another,including continued attachment,the need for companionship, feelings of guilt for ending the marriage and/or for developing new relationships,and to raise their children together (Bray &Depner,1993;Graham,1997;Weiss,1975). Masheter (1991) discovered that 86 percent of coparents 1 had at least occasional contact with one another 2 years following divorce.Coparents are required to maintain at least occasional communication with one another (Coleman &Ganong,1995;Emery & Dillon,1994;Hetherington,1993),and for coparents,divorce becomes a series of transitions froma spousal and parental relationship to a solely parental relationship. Communication between coparents not only functions to help coparents coordinate childrearing responsibilities with one another,but also plays a critical role in redefining the former spousal relationship (Afifi &McManus,2006;Ambert,1989;Graham,1997, 2003;Masheter,1994).However,researchers tend to study divorce as an ending stage and not as part of a “continuous process of family formation” (Anderson &Greene,2005, p.48).It is important for communication scholars to understand the role of 1 At the beginning of this dissertation,I use the term“former spouses” to refer to individuals who are divorced fromone another.Once I introduce the idea of former spouses who remain in contact to share responsibility for raising their children,I use the term“coparents.” Some scholars hyphenate the word as “co-parents” (e.g.,Ahrons,1981;McHale,1995) while others write it as one word (e.g.,Feinberg,2003; Madden-Derdich &Leonard,2000;Margolin,Gordis,&John,2001).I chose to write it as one word in this dissertation.

2 communication in this series of changes in familial subsystems,including the parental and parent-child relationships. Stephen (1984) argued that relationships develop through symbolic interdependence,or the everyday “dynamic interaction” between partners,in which partners communicatively negotiate and construct a shared relationship worldview.When a relationship dissolves,former partners experience high attachment distress when trying to disengage fromtheir symbolic interdependence.Coparents must separate themselves fromtheir marital relationship in order to move on with minimized distress,but moving on may be difficult when coparents have to raise children together.As Linker,Stolberg, and Green (1999) argued,changes in communication patterns and a lack of communication between divorced parents often inhibit family functioning.Coparents who can successfully separate fromthe spousal relationship and maintain functional coparenting relationships tend also to cooperate effectively as coparents (Ahrons,1980; Ahrons,2007a;Emery,1994;Madden-Derdich,Leonard,&Christopher,1999). Coparents who communicate effectively with one another and establish functional and consistent communication patterns and familial roles post-divorce,tend to have well functioning post-divorce families (Graham,1997). The reality of coparenting while trying to disengage fromthe spousal relationship can be incredibly challenging and the opportunity to physically and emotionally separate fromone another while maintaining coparenting relationships may be prolonged indefinitely (Emery,1994;Madden-Derdich &Arditti,1999).One of the primary ways that coparents begin coping and moving on following divorce is through dating (Berman &Turk,1981;Hetherington,1993).Researchers have discovered that many coparents

3 started dating new partners during separation or immediately after the divorce (e.g., Anderson et al.,2004;Ganong &Coleman,2004).Creating satisfying romantic relationships is one of the strongest influences on divorced adults’ well being (Ahrons & Rodgers,1987;Hetherington,1993;Hetherington &Kelly,2002;Madden-Derdich & Arditti,1999;Wang &Amato,2000).Up to 5 years after divorce,Wang and Amato (2000) found that former spouses with new partners were significantly less preoccupied with their former spouses and reported better divorce adjustment when compared to their counterparts who were not dating. Unfortunately,many coparents report a lack norms and rules guiding their communication about post-divorce dating with one another (Madden-Derdich &Leonard, 2000).The lack of communication rules about dating may become problematic in coparenting relationships when coparents are unsure if and how to talk with one another about dating.Anderson and Greene (2005) argued that researchers know little about the period fromdivorce to remarriage when divorced parents negotiate repartnering with one another.Because children are often actively involved in their parents’ dating lives and often learn that their parents are dating (Ferguson &Dickson,1995;Koerner,Rankin, Kenyon,&Korn,2004),it may be likely that coparents learn details about one another’s dating through their children.If children transmit dating information,either intentionally or unintentionally,it may be more effective for coparents to talk directly to one another about dating to minimize conflict that arises when children reveal information.If one coparent discloses dating information him/herself,the other coparent may also be less likely to ask children for information about one another’s dating,which may reduce the

4 chances of children finding themselves stuck in the middle between coparents (Afifi, 2003). Besides parenting issues,Ahrons and Wallisch (1987) found that coparents also talk to one another about their former relationships with one another and about their current relationships.Graham(2003) determined that former spouses experienced tensions between openness and closedness and had different motivations for disclosing than they did when married to their former spouses.Coparents may also have taboo topics that were once acceptable to discuss that they now consider inappropriate (Graham,2003).As coparents try to manage the tension between disclosure and privacy, and the tension between dating and coparenting simultaneously,communication researchers can shed light on how,if at all,coparents adapt or change these communication practices to manage information about their now separate personal lives. Their interactions about dating,or lack of such interactions,can potentially affect the entire family system.To address the need to understand post-divorce changes in communication about dating,I designed the present study.To this end,my purpose in the present study was to explore how coparents communicate and disclose post-divorce dating information to one another. In the sections of Chapter One to follow,I first present an argument for investigating communication between coparents,based on changes in their post-divorce communication rules.Second,I argue for the importance of investigating how coparents manage privacy and disclosure in their post-divorce communication.Third,I argue why researchers should explore coparents’ communication about post-divorce dating.Finally, I describe and argue for the use of Communication Privacy Management (Petronio,2002)

5 as the theoretical framework that best enables me to understand how coparents communicate and manage private information with one another about post-divorce dating. Post-Divorce Coparenting Communication Coparenting relationships are distinct fromrelationships between childfree former spouses because coparents have to maintain contact to raise their children rather than being able to cut all ties post-divorce.As they interact with one another,coparents are challenged to find new ways of communicating as coparents and no longer as spouses (Graham,2003).In the present study,I adapted Smart and Neale’s (1999) definition that guided their research focus on post-divorce coparenting,which is a “pattern of shared care and authority following separation in which parents are both actively engaged in the rearing of their children” (p.57).This definition does not require coparents to be in direct contact with one another,even though they often are. Empirical research on divorced coparents is relatively recent (McHale,Kuersten- Hogan,&Rao,2004).Metts and Cupach (1995) argued that very little is known about the content of interaction between former spouses.In most studies of contact between former spouses,researchers have investigated why divorced individuals choose to maintain contact with one another.In post-divorce coparenting relationships where contact is not as much a choice but a necessity,researchers need to focus on how coparents interact with one another.For example,in her study of dialectical contradictions in post-divorce relationships,Graham(2003) found that after divorce,coparents tried to negotiate the need for autonomy and the pull toward connection with their former spouses.However,I

6 know of no research on how coparents communicatively negotiate these competing needs. Researchers have found differences between coparents’ communication and the communication between childfree former spouses.For example,comparing communication between former spouses with and without children,coparents tend to have more interaction with one another and sustain contact over longer periods of time than do childfree former spouses (Ambert,1989;Bloom&Kindle,1985).As Margolin et al.(2001) argued,the coparenting relationship may be the only place where most former spouses continue to relate to one another after the divorce.Researchers have demonstrated that coparents often communicate about parenting tasks,including division of labor,joint family management,childrearing agreement,financial support,and children’s academics (Ahrons,1981;Feinberg,2003).Because parents no longer live together,their communication tends to be more formal and less frequent (Linker et al., 1999).Coparents’ communication does not end,but coparents do need to adjust to post- divorce changes in the way they interact in order to successfully enact their coparenting roles. Coparents must undergo the complicated process of uncoupling fromthe marriage while maintaining coparenting relationships (Baum&Schnit,2003).During marriage, the spousal and parental relationships have considerable overlap.This overlap must be renegotiated post-divorce (Ahrons,1980).Parents need to figure out how they will interact with one another after divorce.Ahrons (1980),Emery (1994),and Madden- Derdich et al.(1999) argued that successful coparenting requires coparents to separate fromtheir ex-spouse,and to distinguish between their coparenting and former spousal

7 relationships.Although emotional attachment is a natural part of sharing coparenting responsibilities (Madden-Derdich &Arditti,1999),if coparents maintain high levels of attachment to one another,they are likely to experience depression,anxiety,loneliness, and anger (Berman,1988;Emery,1994;Maccoby &Mnookin,1992). Once rules about shared childrearing are established,parents still need to clarify rules for interacting in the family subsystems,between parents and children and between both parents (Ahrons,1980).Some coparents may choose to interact with one another by disengaging themselves as much as possible to cope with their required coparenting contact,while other coparents may isolate their interpersonal communication fromtheir coparenting functions to get along better with one another (Margolin et al,2001).Afifi (2003) found that stepfamily members perceived their communication as more successful if they were more direct with one another.Family members did not find themselves stuck in the middle as often when parents engaged in direct communication with one another. Divorced coparents may find that they can actually minimize conflict with more direct communication with one another,as opposed to decreasing communication and/or disengaging fromthe coparenting relationship as Margolin et al.(2001) discovered they often do. In summary,coparents experience many changes in communication between marriage and the time of divorce.They have to renegotiate their coparenting relationship, adjust to the divorce,and continue interacting with the other coparent but only as parents and not as spouses.Coparents often struggle with these competing changes.In the next section,I discuss the implications of creating quality post-divorce coparenting relationships.

8 Quality of Communication in Coparenting Relationships Parents,children,and the entire family systembenefits fromquality coparenting relationships (Masheter,1991;Wright &Price,1986),and researchers have called for studies of successful post-divorce coparenting relationships (Ambert,1989;McHale et al.,2004;Van Egeren &Hawkins,2004).There are implications in understanding how coparents create quality coparenting relationships.First,researchers have linked the quality of the coparenting relationships to children’s increased well-being (Ahrons, 2007a;Buchanan,Maccoby,&Dornbush,1991;Maccoby,Depner,&Mnookin,1990). Coparents who get along are also able to minimize children’s involvement in family conflict (Afifi,2003;Linker et al.,1999).Ahrons (2007a) also discovered that the quality of the coparenting relationship affected the quality of the parent-child relationship 20 years after divorce. Second,the quality of coparenting relationships influences parenting practices following divorce,in particular,nonresidential fathers’ parenting practices.This may be the case because,as Petronio (1988) found,as “single parent’s responsibilities increase, this type of parent role is more obvious...on the other hand,the visiting parent role is more ambiguous” (p.108).In many cases,traditionally,the mother receives physical custody of the child.Fathers who experience ambiguous post-divorce roles tend to withdraw parental involvement by seeing children less,providing less child support,and interacting less with their coparents (McKenry,Price,Fine,&Serovich,1992;Minton & Pasley,1996;Seltzer,1991).In their study of compliance with court-ordered child payments,Wright and Price (1986) found that good coparent relationships and some level of attachment to one another together accounted for nearly half of the variance in

9 compliance to pay child support.In studies of post-divorce custody arrangements, nonresidential fathers who reported having more positive relationships with mothers tended to be more involved in their children’s lives (Ahrons,1983;Koch & Lowery, 1985;McKenry et al.,1992;Seltzer,1991). To understand the quality of coparenting relationships,most researchers have focused on conflict within coparenting relationships (e.g.,Ahrons,1981;Baum,2004; Bonach &Sales,2002;Bonach,Sales,&Koeske,2005;Camara &Resnick,1989; Emery,1982;Garrity &Baris,1994;Hess &Camara,1979).In one of the first studies to examine conflict among post-divorce coparents,Ahrons (1981) discovered that coparents’ communication about parenting,finances,and children’s schooling caused stress and conflict between coparents.Since this pivotal study,many researchers have centered their research on conflict communication between divorced coparents (e.g., Fishel &Scanzoni,1989;Masheter,1991;Wallerstein &Kelly,1980).Researchers have also been able to create numerous typologies of coparenting relationships based on the degree and types of conflict (e.g.,Ahrons &Rodgers,1987;Baum,2004;Maccoby et al., 1990). For example,Baum(2004) examined the relationships among the quality of the coparenting relationship,coparents’ compromising and attack styles of conflict resolution,and coparents’ fulfillment of parental roles.In his analysis,he discovered three types of coparenting relationships:(a) Cooperative Coparenting,(b) Conflictual Coparenting,and (c) Parallel Coparenting.Cooperative Coparents had a higher quality coparenting relationship,used the attack style of conflict resolution less than the other coparents in the study,and had a moderate level of parental role fulfillment for both

10 mothers and fathers.On the other hand,Conflictual Coparents had a lower quality relationship,characterized by attacking and less paternal involvement.Baum’s (2004) typology,in addition to the other typologies,is helpful in that it informs our understanding of conflict about coparenting responsibilities.These researchers provided an extensive view of individual and relational outcomes related to conflict in coparenting relationships (Ahrons &Miller,1993;Amato,1993;Hess &Camara,1979;Maccoby et al.,1990;Madden-Derdich et al.,1999). Although most researchers have established that at least some conflict exists in coparenting relationships,which makes sense considering coparents are trying to manage child activities,issues of raising their children,financial concerns,and continued contact with one another,they have also discovered that coparents are able to coparent successfully,become friends (Ahrons,1994;Ambert,1989;Masheter,1997a,1997b), and maintain relationships with one another that are not highly distressed (Ahrons,1994; Kitson &Holmes,1992).Many times these relationships demonstrate a healthy attachment between former spouses (Ahrons &Rodgers,1987).These relationships are often characterized by trust,openness,support,and advice (Ambert,1989).In fact, Ahrons and Rodgers (1987) found that some former spouses acted as confidants for one another in disclosures about dating.It is important for researchers to continue examining the communication patterns that may enhance the quality of coparents’ relationships and alleviate conflict between coparents,because as they have demonstrated,not all coparenting relationships are ridden with conflict (Ahrons,2007a;Baum,2004). Although coparents primarily talk about child-related issues,they also report talking about past relationships and new experiences (Ahrons &Wallisch,1987).

11 Researchers know very little about how divorced parents talk about new dating experiences (Anderson &Greene,2005).Although coparents date soon after separation and divorce,they lack rules and guidelines to talk about dating with one another (Madden-Derdich &Leonard,2000).Examining if and how coparents talk to one another about dating provides a more comprehensive view of coparents’ interactions that may include,but are not limited to,conflict.My goal in the present study was to understand how coparents communicate and disclose information concerning their post-divorce dating.I pursued this line of inquiry by seeking to understand if and how coparents develop and negotiate privacy rules that guide their communication and erect privacy boundaries around dating information.To examine the rules that coparents develop to guide their dating disclosures,it is first important to understand how coparents’ communication rules change post-divorce. Renegotiation of Communication Rules in Post-Divorce Coparenting Relationships As Madden-Derdich and Leonard (2000) argued,“rules that regulate relationship interaction must be redefined as family membership and role expectations are altered... unfortunately,these new roles are not always explicit,hampering the redefinition of individual and interpersonal roles” (p.311).Coparents have to redefine and renegotiate their relationship with one another along with their coparental roles,routines,and rules (Coleman &Ganong,1995;Emery,1994;Madden-Derdich &Arditti,1999;Masheter, 1991;Masheter &Harris,1986) to adjust to their new relationships post-divorce (Graham,2003).Schrodt,Baxter,McBride,Braithwaite,and Fine (2006) discovered that some coparents relied on the divorce decree to guide their post-divorce behaviors,and referred back to the decree if one of the parents broke the other’s trust.Other coparents

12 may not use the decree to guide communication and never talk to one another about the rules and expectations for their post-divorce communication.If coparents do not develop new rules,and do not support one another’s actions and behaviors,expectations are ambiguous and coparents have a difficult time coparenting (Stryker &Stratham,1985). Bernstein (2007) found that coparents who relied on indirect and/or ambiguous communication had a distorted view of the other coparent,which in turn harmed the quality of their post-divorce relationship. In her Communication Privacy Management theory,Petronio (2002) defined rules as “meaningful ways to understand different types of communication interactions” (p. 37).Rules allow individuals to regulate and coordinate their communication with others. Although rules are commonly shared among relational partners (Baxter,Dun,& Sahlstein,2001),individuals must also renegotiate their rules when changes in relationships occur (Planalp &Rivers,1996).In addition to coordinating their coparenting responsibilities,Bonach et al.(2005) argued that a challenge for post-divorce coparents is to redefine their coparenting relationship and at the same time end their spousal relationship.Graham(1997) agreed that former spouses need to create new rules for relating to one another as former spouses and coparents.Coparents create and negotiate rules to help guide the boundaries they maintain between their former spousal and coparenting relationships (Graham,2003).Many scholars agree that coparents experience communication problems with one another because they lack prior experience and scripts to direct behaviors or rules in their new roles as former spouses and coparents (Braver &O’Connell,1998;Foley &Fraser,1998;Madden-Derdich &Leonard,2000; Stryker &Statham,1985).

13 As there are few guidelines for coparents to follow in their renegotiated relationships,they may need to create their own sets of rules and boundaries in order for successful coparenting and coping with the divorce.Ambert (1989) conducted one of the few studies to date on face-to-face communication between former spouses that did not focus on conflict communication.She found that many participants in her study, including coparents,stressed the importance of avoiding any talk about personal topics such as feelings for each other and dating because they considered talk about feelings and post-divorce dating taboo.To explain the notion that talk about personal issues is taboo, Ambert (1989) argued that former spouses and coparents follow communication rules, both individually created and jointly negotiated,to guide what information is acceptable to discuss with one another.However,she did not investigate what the communication rules were guiding the taboo topics,or how former spouses and coparents developed their communication rules. Coparents who create clear and flexible boundaries between their roles as parents and former spouses tend to have a successful coparenting relationship (Durst, Wedemeyer,&Zurcher,1985).If coparents lack norms and rules to guide their communication with one another,coparents are often unable to successfully enact their coparental roles (Braver &O’Connell,1998;Maccoby et al.,1990;Serovich,Price, Chapman,&Wright,1992;Stryker &Statham,1985).Madden-Derdich and colleagues (1999) discovered that boundaries between coparents were often ambiguous and were related to conflict and poor coparenting relationships.In her work on privacy management in stepfamilies,Afifi (2003) discovered that remarried coparents often decreased contact,shared less personal information,and used alternative means of

14 communication (e.g.,letters,emails) with one another when the other coparent failed to adhere to negotiated privacy rules.Coparents’ inability to create and enact communication rules may influence the coparenting and parent-child relationships within the family. In addition to affecting coparenting and parent-child relationships,researchers have established that a lack of clear rules and boundaries between the coparenting and former spousal relationships leads to unsuccessful separation fromthe marriage (Emery, 1994;Emery &Dillon,1994).Coparents with high emotional involvement with one another tend to have ambiguous boundaries between their coparenting and former spousal relationships (Madden-Derdich et al.,1999).Subsequently,coparents who do not establish clear relationship rules and boundaries that distinguish their coparenting relationship fromtheir former spousal relationship tend to have attachment problems and poor adjustment to the divorce (Kitson,1992;Kitson &Morgan,1990;Madden-Derdich &Arditti,1999).Coparents engage in post-divorce dating in part to separate fromtheir spousal relationship.If they do not have clear rules and boundaries guiding their communication after dating,coparents may be unable to successfully establish separate identities while also maintaining a successful coparenting relationship. To renegotiate their former spousal relationship,coparents must also adapt their communication practices and rules when deciding what and how to communicate about personal matters that were acceptable to discuss during the marriage (Ahrons &Wallisch, 1987;Bloom&Kindle,1985).Research on the topic of coparents’ conversations has yielded inconsistent results.For example,Ahrons and Wallisch’s (1987) findings were inconsistent in determining patterns of coparents’ conversational content.Twenty-one

15 percent of coparents reported a high focus on child-related issues;21 percent reported rarely talking about these topics.Ahrons and Wallisch also asked coparents how often they discussed non-child related topics,including reasons for the divorce,personal problems,or new life experiences,and discovered that 1 year after divorce,only 5 percent of coparents discussed personal topics in enough depth to feel involved in one another’s lives.When comparing nonparents to coparents 2 to 3 months post-divorce, nonparenting couples were more open with their topics and talked about their former marital relationship,personal problems,and new experiences with close to the same frequency,while coparents focused primarily on children and rarely talked about individual concerns.However,the presence of children may make it necessary for coparents to talk about their dating with one another.If coparents remain in contact to raise their children,and children are often involved in their parents’ dating lives (Ferguson &Dickson,1995;Koerner et al.,2004),it seems that in order to protect their children,coparents may also need and/or want to know what the other coparent is doing in their dating behaviors that may affect the children. In summary,coparents need to change their rules guiding post-divorce communication.Researchers have examined what topics coparents discuss with one another,and the extent to which they talk about non-parenting topics,but they have found inconsistent results.Children are often part of their parents’ dating,yet researchers know very little about how much coparents talk about dating with one another.This is important to investigate because if and how much coparents talk to one another about dating may influence the extent to which coparents also talk to children about their dating and what types of information they discuss about their dating.In the next section,I focus

16 on the importance of investigating how coparents develop and enact rules guiding their privacy. Renegotiation of Coparents’ Privacy and Disclosure Rules For years many researchers have argued that couples should strive for openness to achieve relationship satisfaction and intimacy,particularly within marriages (e.g., Derlega &Berg,1987).Dainton and Stafford (1993) discovered that one typical strategy for maintaining a satisfying relationship was openness between partners.In relationships between former spouses,Wright and Price (1986) found that the strongest predictor of the quality of an individuals’ relationship was perceived honesty of the former spouse.In contrast,Ganong and Coleman (1994) argued that when former spouses share too much information with one another,they may become confused and jealous of one another.If openness about personal issues signals intimacy and trust during their marriage,what does disclosure post-divorce signify?Are former spouses sharing private information to remain connected or to make one another jealous by talking about their new single lives? In coparenting relationships,too much openness or closedness between coparents about personal information,including feelings about the divorce and their newly developing personal lives,is often considered inappropriate (Graham,2003).However,coparents may need to talk about issues,such as dating,that they may find uncomfortable but that may be in the best interest of their children. Coparents seemto benefit fromsuccessfully regulating disclosure and privacy. Scholars have demonstrated that former spouses need to negotiate the dialectical tension between openness and privacy (Graham,2003;Masheter,1994),as both are necessary for relationship maintenance and satisfaction.In particular,when former spouses renegotiate

17 their spousal relationship,they report experiencing the dialectics of autonomy- connection,stability-change,and openness-closedness (Masheter,1994).Masheter and Harris (1986) called the tension between former spouses “separate togetherness,” in which former spouses struggle with being both connected and separate.In their study of divorced parents’ conflict styles,Baumand Schnit (2003) argued that successful coparenting requires parents to transformtheir affective attachment as married couples to functional attachment as coparents only. Researchers have discovered that stepfamily members and children establish privacy boundaries around their personal information to increase autonomy and gain a sense of control in their families (Afifi,2003;Afifi &Schrodt,2003b;Braithwaite & Baxter,2006;Caughlin &Afifi,2004;Caughlin et al.,2000;Golish &Caughlin,2002; Mazur &Hubbard,2004).Spouses use privacy boundaries to establish autonomy and protect against vulnerability with one another (Petronio,1991).Analyzing the previous research on the negotiation and problematic nature of openness and privacy in family relationships leads scholars to inquire about the nature of this dialectic in coparenting relationships.For example,Graham(2003) argued that former spouses manage private information in ways to maintain privacy as single individuals but also to remain connected to their former spouses.She found that coparents regulated disclosures to control the flow of information and to sustain a successful divorce.Graham(1997) argued for examining the tension between openness and privacy in post-divorce relationships.She argued that “the boundary between disclosing and withholding is particularly crucial” because there are consequences to disclosing for the former spouse and for the former spousal relationship (p.198).Both disclosure and privacy have the

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Abstract: Although the complexity of post-divorce communication has garnered recent research attention across disciplines (Ahrons, 2007; Afifi & Schrodt, 2003b; Baum, 2004; Graham, 2003; Masheter, 1997a, 1997b), little is known about how coparents communicate and manage issues of privacy with one another. Former spouses who interact to raise their children struggle with maintaining privacy over their personal lives and sufficient openness they believe necessary to effectively coparent. As many coparents begin dating before or immediately after divorce (Anderson et al., 2004), it is important to understand how coparents interact and manage dating information with one another to minimize conflict and maintain effective coparenting relationships. The researcher adopted the interpretive paradigm to answer two research questions: How, if at all, do coparents disclose information to one another about their post-divorce dating? How, if at all, do coparents develop and enact communication privacy rules with one another to create and negotiate their privacy boundaries regarding post-divorce dating? The researcher conducted 35 interviews with divorced coparents. Using Smith's (1995) process of thematic analysis, Communication Privacy Management (CPM) (Petronio, 2002) was engaged as an organizing framework (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to understand participants' privacy management concerning dating information. Results indicated that participants relied on direct disclosures, third-party disclosures, and inferences to reveal dating information, and developed and enacted individual dating privacy rules without negotiating rules with their coparents. Coparents managed intersected boundaries and reported experiencing limited boundary turbulence. Issues of rule negotiation and the exercise of control, strategic communication in privacy management, and quality coparenting through direct disclosure were salient in the interviews, and the researcher addresses the implications of these issues for the study of post-divorce communication. The researcher also provides insight in improving post-divorce communication by suggesting coparents wait longer to start new dating relationships, use the divorce decree to guide post-divorce interactions, and use email as a channel of communication. The researcher calls for CPM to address the difficulty in coordinating privacy boundaries when gaining information through inferences.