A Mile in my Shoes: An Exploration of Custodial Mothers' Perspectives on Empathy and its Role in Co-parenting and Paternal Involvement

Apr 2022 | Armon R. Perry, Aaron C. Rollins Jr., & Abby Perez


In contemporary society, fewer adults marry than in previous generations. It is also true that there have been increases in the number of non-marital births. The combination of these demographic trends mean that large numbers of fathers live apart from their children and are at risk for disengagement as a result of the conflict that characterizes many co-parenting relationships. In response, there is a burgeoning literature examining interventions aimed at improving co-parenting cooperation and reducing conflict. To further examine these issues, the purpose of this study was to give voice to custodial mothers enrolled in a co-parenting intervention to share their experiences and perspectives on their relationships with their children’s fathers and to offer their opinion regarding the most impactful components of the intervention. In-depth qualitative data were collected from 55 custodial mothers participating in focus groups and follow up individual interviews. Data analysis revealed that many of the mothers reported improvements in their co-parenting relationships over time. The absence or presence of empathy also emerged as a salient factor in shaping the mothers’ co-parenting experiences, a finding that may have implications for practitioners and researchers interested in the dynamics of family functioning.

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