Happy marriage can equal happy baby

People love to give advice to expectant couples. Some of it is trite ("Cherish every moment"); some is useful ("Go to as many movies as you can before the baby comes").

But no one warns couples about what can happen to a marriage after the baby arrives.

Read "Happy marriage can equal happy baby" in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


From where do the statistics on the transition to parenthood come? The comments in this article probably need to have some nuance added to them in order to make the most sense. These additional comments are enumerated below, including the references for all figures cited here and in the above sections.

It is clear that marital satisfaction declines for both members of the couple, sometimes catastrophically, during the transition to parenthood. The female in the relationship generally achieves the 70% figure first (though in some studies the actual figure is between 40 -70%). The male satisfaction scores starts declining afterward, perhaps as a reaction to female behavior. Here are two relevant references:

Gottman, JM (1999)
The Marriage Clinic: a Scientifically-Based Marital Therapy
Norton Prof Books (NY)
pp. 119 – 133 (see in particular p. 120 – 121)

Belsky, J and Pensky E (1988)
Marital change across the transition to parenthood
Marr and Fam Rev 12: 133 – 156

The nine-fold figure at the half-year mark is actually from unpublished data. The true number has been elusive to determine, even after all these years, probably because different studies use different hostility indices to arrive at their conclusions. Regardless of the methodology employed, the conclusion is very straightforward, and sobering: it is not abnormal to experience a great increase in conflict during the transition to parenthood (for some couples, it is probably much higher than 9x). Here are references filled with the most solidly designed studies:

Wallace, PM & Gotlib IH (1990)
Marital adjustment during the transition to parenthood: stability and predictors of change
J. Mar & Fam 52(1): 21 – 29

Belsky, J and Kelly J. (1994)
The transition to parenthood: How a first child changes a marriage and why some couples grow closer and others apart
Dell (NY)

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