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J Fam Issues. 1985 Dec;6(4):409-33.

The effect of the transition to parenthood on the marriage relationship: a longitudinal study.



A longitudinal study of newlyweds explored the impact of parenthood on marriages. Couples who became parents during the 1st year of marriage were compared with couples who remained childless during the year. The sample for the 3-year longitudinal study from which these data were drawn included 168 couples who married between December 1980 and June 1981. The couples resided in 4 predominantly rural counties in Pennsylvania, were all in their 1st marriages, and were all interviewed about 2 months after the couples' weddings and again about 1 year later. Data concerning the behavioral properties of marriage were gathered by phone interviews; data pertaining to the partners' satisfaction were obtained during face-to-face interviews. The results confirmed earlier research in showing that the transition to parenthood affects companionship and marital role patterns, but no evidence was found to support the idea that parenthood is associated with a decline in the partners' evaluations of one another (love) or their marriage (marital satisfaction). Both the parent and nonparent groups showed significant declines in love and satisfaction. Parents and nonparents not only evaluate their marriage less favorably but they also reduce by about 1/3 the extent to which they say and do things that bring pleasure to one another. Across the 1st year, the overall amount of marital companionship does not change, but it starts to become more incidental to instrumental activity rather than the focus of activity. The overall pattern of results is generally consistent with the idea that marriage change over the 1st year away from having a predominantly recreational character to having a quality more like that of a working partnership. The data indicate the importance of using comparison groups of nonparents in research on the transition to parenthood.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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