This study investigated whether foster parents’ reports of their dyadic coping competencies differ from biological parents, whether there are differences with regard to the temporal associations between maternal and paternal dyadic coping in the two samples, and whether parental dyadic coping competencies predict future mental health problems in children. A total of 94 foster children and 157 children living in their biological families, both samples aged 2–7 years, as well as their (foster) parents were assessed three times over a 12-month period. The mothers’ and fathers’ dyadic coping competencies were assessed using the Dyadic Coping Inventory (DCI). Child psychopathology was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and a standardized clinical interview (Kinder-DIPS), both mainly based on maternal report. Foster parents reported better dyadic coping competencies across the three assessments than did biological parents. There were no significant differences with regard to the temporal associations between mothers’ and fathers’ report over time between the two samples. Cross-lagged panel models yielded a high within person stability across the three assessments for both, mothers and fathers (actor effects), as well as some significant interpersonal effects primarily from paternal to maternal dyadic coping (partner effects). In contrast to the expectation, mothers’ and fathers’ dyadic coping did not predict child mental health problems at the third assessment. The results make an important contribution to the research on dyadic coping and on how child mental health problems affect parental dyadic coping competencies and vice versa.
Keywords: dyadic coping, child mental health problems, foster children, foster parents, child maltreatment