Parents who interact with an infant using a doll helps in predicting which couples might fight during co-parenting when their baby arrives, suggests a new study.
The researchers videotaped 182 couples in the third trimester of pregnancy while they played with a doll that they were told represented the baby they were about to have.
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and professor of human sciences at the Ohio State University, said that the extent to which couples supported or undermine each other's interactions with the doll predicted their co-parenting behavior a year later.
Lead author Lauren Altenburger, a doctoral student in human sciences at Ohio State, said that co-parenting had consistently been linked to child outcomes and the child suffers when parents fight and undermine each other's parenting.
Nine months after the birth of the baby, a different team of research assistants watched videotapes of the parents playing with their infant and rated the quality of the couples' co-parenting behavior.
Results showed that how the couples "co-parented" the doll contributed unique information to understanding how well they would co-parent their real infant.
The study is published in the Journal of Family Psychology.