Dyad to triad: A longitudinal analysis of humor and pregnancy intention during the transition to parenthood

Jaclyn C. Theisen, Brian G. Ogolsky, Jeffry A. Simpson, W. Steven Rholes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The transition to parenthood is a stressful life event that often leads to decreases in relationship satisfaction over time. Guided by the Stress Buffering Model, we examined how pregnancy intention and humor use are associated with relationship satisfaction across the transition to parenthood using a multi-wave longitudinal design. First-time parents were initially assessed prenatally and then every 6-month postpartum for 2 years. Six months after birth, each couple was video-recorded engaging in two support discussions where each partner’s use of different humor styles was observed and rated. The results revealed a positive association between affiliative humor use (assessed at 6-month postpartum) and relationship satisfaction (assessed across the entire transition) for men and women. For men only, there was an interaction between pregnancy intention (assessed prenatally) and aggressive humor use (assessed 6-month postpartum). Specifically, when the pregnancy was unplanned, men who displayed higher levels of aggressive humor at 6-month postpartum reported higher overall relationship satisfaction. There also was a significant interaction between men’s (but not women’s) affiliative humor use and pregnancy intention, such that when men reported an unplanned pregnancy, their greater use of affiliative humor buffered declines in their relationship satisfaction. These findings suggest that, for men, greater use of affiliative humor appears to forestall declines in their relationship satisfaction. More broadly, different forms of humor may promote or sustain higher levels of relationship satisfaction in men across the chronically stressful transition to parenthood because they serve key communicative functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3611-3630
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number MH49599 to Jeffry A. Simpson and W. Steven Rholes. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. This project was supported by the University of Minnesota's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Dyadic data analysis
  • humor
  • pregnancy intention
  • relationship satisfaction
  • trajectories
  • transition to parenthood


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