Capability & Flexibility

The Risks

Research shows that a child’s best interests are closely linked to a parent’s capacities and skills as well as material resources. Parents should be able to offer parenting capability which includes being both available and flexible, particularity during shared parenting.

Pruett & DiFonzo suggest the following qualities should be taken into account to determine the capability of the parent:

  • Qualities of the parent:  including temperament, mental health, sensitivity to child’s early developmental needs, capacity and willingness to be flexible as child’s needs get expressed, and capacity and interest in effecting cooperation in childrearing domains and economic resources.
  • Nature of each parent–child relationship: including warmth, availability, ability to discern and respond, to the child’s needs, caregiving history, caregiving interest and motivation, and history of perpetrating child abuse or neglect.

Smyth, Mcintosh, Emery & Howarth suggest that the following aspects should be considered when assessing parenting quality & the parent-child relationship in a shared parenting arrangement:

  • the arrangement ensures the parenting relationships experienced by the child are supportive, and the child is not subject to caregiving that, by omission or commission, is repeatedly distressing to the child or in which the impact of known parenting vulnerabilities are buffered by other supportive influences;
  • it is also an arrangement that supports a parent’s wellbeing and minimize parenting stress
  • the child is not subject to interactions with new family members that are repeatedly distressing to the child or undermine the child’s relationship with one or both parents.


Part of being a capable parent in a shared parenting arrangement is the ability to be flexible and adaptable to a child’s needs. Research has found that flexibility is a top priority in parenting arrangements, particularity for teenagers. Moreover, further research suggests that rigid shared time arrangements may lead to elevated hyperactivity, particularly for boys.

Smyth, Mcintosh, Emery & Howarth suggest that the following aspects should be considered when assessing the nature and exercise of a shared parenting arrangement:

  • the parenting arrangement is structured and exercised by parents in a manner that creates for the child an experience of a connected family life
  • the “terms” of the parenting arrangement prioritize being responsive and accommodating to the child’s needs
  • transition and handover periods are low-stress experiences for the child
  • the child’s need for access to the “absent” parent (be that the greater-time or lesser-time parent) is supported and enabled by the present parent
  • the child is supported with the planning and coordination that a shared parenting arrangement requires, especially in logistically complex timeshare arrangements

Improving Skills

You may be able to improve your parenting capabilities by taking a parenting course. Parenting Across Scotland has complied a list of free courses offered in different areas around Scotland.

Check out our useful websites and books in our practical advice section for further information for improving your parenting skills.