Parental Gatekeeping

Appropriate gatekeeping that encourages the other parent’s relationship with their child can reduce parental conflict.

After separation, parents must decide on the sharing of parental responsibilities.  The new model of Gatekeeping offers clear, behavioral ways to increase a parent’s awareness of their behavior.


Facilitative Gatekeeping:

Facilitative behaviors involve reaching out to the other parent, such as including the other parent, boosting the image of the other parent, ongoing communication, and flexible time sharing.  The goal of facilitative gatekeeping is to ensure that the child has an opportunity to develop and maintain a relationship with the other parent.

Three factors from research:

The residential parent can influence both the amount of time shared and the quality of the relationship between the non-resident parent and the child. (1)

Fathers Involvement

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Because most non-residential parents are fathers, research to date on parental involvement has concentrated on father involvement.  This research has clearly, repeatedly shown that children benefit from positive father involvement. (1)  No research on the mother as non-residential parent could be located.

It's About The Child

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The non-residential parent’s involvement is affected by the residential patent’s attitudes and behaviors. (1)  Parents often incorrectly assume that the child is unaware of their attitudes.  If the residential parent’s attitudes and behaviors support the non-resident parent’s involvement and co-parenting, the non-residential parent is more likely to maintain involvement with the child after the divorce.  It’s all about the child.

High Quality Co-Parenting

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Research has shown a relation between high quality co-parenting and children’s positive adjustment. (2)

Restrictive Gatekeeping:

Behavior Description

This behavior reflects actions that interfere with the other parent’s involvement with the child.  Communications are limited or blocked.  Parenting time schedules are rigidly enforced, regardless of school or athletic events of the child.  In restrictive gatekeeping, the restricting parent attempts to prevent the child from developing a close relationship with the other parent.  “Post-divorce restrictive gatekeeping and parent conflict are intertwined.” (1)  (pg. 492).


Observed Categories

According to Austin (3), gatekeeping behaviors and attitudes have been observed from very facilitative to cooperative, to disengaged, to restrictive, to very restrictive.  In most situations, facilitative and cooperative behaviors both benefit the child.  Restrictive categories can hurt the child’s ability to build a relationship; however, there are situations where the other parent’s actions are harmful to the child, and some restrictions and limitations are appropriate.



Children adjust much better to parental separation when they observe that the parents respect each other and can work together to provide and care for them. (3)  (pg. 497).



(1) Austin, W.G., Fieldstone, L. and Pruett, M.K. (2013). Bench Book for Assessing Parental Gatekeeping in Parenting Disputes: Understanding the Dynamics of Gate Closing and Opening for the Best Interests of Children. Journal of Child Custody 10, 1-16.

(2) King, V., & Sobolewski, J.M. (2006). Nonresident fathers’ contributions to adolescent well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 385-396.

(3) Austin, W.G., Pruett, M.K., Kirkpatrick, H.D., Flens, J.R. & Gould, J.W. (2013). Parental gatekeeping and child custody/child access evaluation: Part I: Conceptual framework, research, and application. Family Court Review, 51, 485-501.

Additional information about parental gatekeeping can be found in the following articles:

Amato, P.R., & Sobolewski, J.M. (2001). The effects of divorce and marital discord on adult children’s psychological well-being. American Sociological Review, 66, 900-921.

Trinder, L. (2008) Maternal gate closing and gate opening in post-divorce families. Journal of Family Issues, 29 (10), 1298-1324.

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To eliminate harm to Acadiana's children due to parental conflict.