What Having Children Does To Your Relationship

Parenthood brings many stressors including lack of sleep and endless chores, which puts immense strain on parents and their relationship.

Parenthood brings many stressors including lack of sleep and endless chores, which puts immense strain on parents and their relationship.

Most couples remain committed to each other and satisfied with their relationships after having children, a study finds.

While the transition to parenthood is filled with stressors, like lack of sleep and endless chores, the majority of couples get through it with their connection to each other intact.

The conclusions come from a study of over 200 couples who were tracked over more than a year as they had their first child.

Mr Nathan Leonhardt, the study’s first author, explained the results:

“The clear majority (81 percent) of the 203 couples navigated the transition with high commitment and at least moderately high satisfaction.

And we learned that a huge differentiation as far as who ended up transitioning well were people that had good relationships going into this transition period.”

The study also found some factors that predicted the most successful transition to parenthood:

  • More realistic expectations of having children,
  • feeling their partner helped them grow as a person,
  • believing their partner was committed to the relationship,
  • and remaining emotionally connected to their partner.

Professor Emily Impett, study co-author, said:

“I think the focus on commitment as an outcome during the transition to parenthood is really important, and the take-home that most couples begin but remain highly committed over this life transition is a message that should be music to many couples’ ears.”

Many people believe that relationships suffer from parenthood, but Mr Leonhardt thinks this is unnecessarily gloomy:

“I like being able to point out exceptions to the norm, to ‘myth bust’ a little bit.

So with something like the transition to parenthood, I wanted to be able to see if we could break some of the common narratives and give people a little bit more hope.”

Children won’t save a relationship

However, parents should not expect having a child to save their relationship, Mr Leonhardt said:

“As a general rule, if things aren’t going well in your relationship, adding another person to this family probably isn’t the thing that you should be doing to try to resolve any relationship problems that you have.”

Mr Leonhardt is fascinated by relationships and how they affect our lives:

“If you were to ask somebody about the best and worst experiences they’ve had in their lives, there’s a high percentage of experiences that would have something to do with their relationship.

It’s just such an integral part of who we are as human beings and how we come to understand ourselves, and what’s ultimately most important to us in our lives.”

The study was published in the journal Journal of Marriage and Family (Leonhardt et al., 2021).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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