Transition To Parenthood Changes In The Marital Relationship

4049 words - 16 pages

Transition to parenthood is one of the most demanding and increasingly complex life experiences that sets a couple’s future relationship trajectory for determining the quality and stability of their relationship (Kluwer, 2010). The infant’s arrival requires the couple to adjust not only to daily baby care chores but also to the new roles of parents, often leaving the interpersonal relationship between husband and wife to a low priority. The prevailing majority of scholarship describe different levels of decline in the quality of marital relationship postpartum (Wallace & Gotlib, 1990; Helms-Erikson, 2001; Twenge, Campbell, & Foster, 2003; Mitnick, Heyman, & Smith Slep, 2009; Kluwer, 2010; Umberson, Pudrovska, & Reczek, 2010). At the same time, some scholarship explains how couples have more joy, happiness and a sense of fulfillment in life because of the baby (Petch & Halford, 2008; Nelson et al., 2013), while other findings report identical levels of marital happiness before and after birth of the baby (Amato et al., 2003). A genuine controversy lies in whether a decrease or increase of couple happiness takes place at transition to parenthood. During this transitioning process, new sets of tasks challenge the couples to act in new roles and adjust their daily routines, behavior, and relationship. When the couples experience less relationship distress in completing the transition tasks, they have a higher potential to create a positive context for raising an emotionally and physically healthy child and less chances for divorce. Because divorce has negative lasting effects on descendants for the next three generations, including lower education attainment, lower income, higher relationship distress, and higher chances for divorce (Amato and Cheadle, 2005), preventing divorce is one of the top transition to parenthood issues for society. Additionally, for educational, therapeutic and policymaking purposes, knowing what factors are the strongest determinants of change in marital quality at the transition to becoming a parent is a starting point for working in any of these fields. The purpose of this paper is to offer a theoretically grounded and research-informed position on changes in relationship satisfaction and significant determinants of marital quality decline associated with the transition to parenthood for heterosexual couples who become parents for the first time. In this paper the use of such words as couple, marriage, partners and other derivatives does not exclude unmarried people who become parents. Likewise, nouns such as quality, satisfaction, adjustment, and happiness refer interchangeably to the relationship dynamic within the couple.
The theoretical framework of family development theory in combination with family systems theory provides a vantage point for identifying factors that play a central role in the critical but normative process of family development including transition to parenthood. Following the...

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