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J Fam Issues. 1985 Dec;6(4):451-81.

Transitions to parenthood: his, hers, and theirs.



This study explores marital processes that may underlie the apparent decline in satisfaction with marriage in partners becoming parents for the 1st time. The study assessed 47 couples expecting a 1st child and 15 couples not yet decided about having a child at pretest, post 1 (6 months post partum of 9 months after pretest) and post 2 (18 months postpartum or 21 months after pretest). Questionnaires examined: 1) psychological sense of self; 2) partners' role arrangements and communication; 3) parenting ideology; 4) perceptions of the family of origin; and 5) social support and life stress, including parents' work patterns. Parenthood seems to bring more change, and more negative change, in each of the 5 domains of family life that were investigated for comparable couples not having a 1st child experience over a similar period of time. Quantitative data support this conclusion in 4 of the 5 domains (individuals sense of self, marital, parent-child, and outside the family). Interview data suggest that new parents' relationships with their families of origin also undergo change at this time. Although shifts within domains often showed patterns similar to change in overall satisfaction with the marriage, the connection between the 2 was not linear and direct, especially for women. Men and women in transition to parenthood become increasingly different from one another; the results suggest that increased gender differentiation accompanying the transition to parenthood is a factor in accounting for marital satisfaction decline.

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