City Research Online

Grappling with tradition: the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual mothers and fathers in elective co-parenting arrangements

Bower-Brown, S., Foley, S., Jadva, V. ORCID: 0000-0003-0922-0694 & Golombok, S. (2023). Grappling with tradition: the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual mothers and fathers in elective co-parenting arrangements. Journal of Family Studies, 30(1), pp. 82-103. doi: 10.1080/13229400.2023.2209060


Elective co-parenting families, meaning two (or more parents) who are not in a romantic relationship having a child together, are becoming more common amongst cisgender, heterosexual parents. The study of elective co-parenting families offers researchers a unique opportunity to decouple co-parenting relationships from romantic relationships, but little research to date has explored their experiences. This study explored two research questions: why do individuals decide to enter into elective co-parenting arrangements? And how do they manage their co-parenting arrangement and their relationship with their co-parent? Interview data from 10 elective co-parents (5 mothers and 5 fathers) were analyzed according to the principles of reflexive thematic analysis. Sociological theorisations of family practices, family display and family thinking were utilized to make sense of the data. The results centred around two organizing themes (‘Reproducing the traditional family’ and ‘Modernising the traditional family’), and participants experienced a tension between these two ideas. Participants aimed to manage their co-parenting relationship with shared values and friendship, but defining their relationship was complex and gendered parenting patterns were ubiquitous. Findings add nuance to theorisations of family life and demonstrate that traditional parenthood ideologies remain pervasive, as parents aim to imagine and pursue parenthood on their own terms.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
Publisher Keywords: Co-parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, gender, family display, qualitative
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Grappling with tradition the experiences of cisgender heterosexual mothers and fathers in elective co-parenting arrangements.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login