Marital relationship change in the transition to parenthood: A reexamination as interpreted through transition theory

Patricia Short Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This study examines whether transition to parenthood results in marital relationship disruption. A total of 96 childbearing couples were tested with Spanier's Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) 2 months before and 3 months after the birth of their first child. Fifty-four nonparent couples matched on age, income, and education were tested over the same interval. A three-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) for nonequivalent groups was used to estimate group, gender, and time effects on marital satisfaction. Results showed a significant group effect, a significant time effect, and a Group × Time interaction. Post hoc analysis revealed that females in the parent group showed the greatest decline of all groups in marital satisfaction, an appraisal most influenced by the decreased ability of the spousal partnership to reach consensus on tasks, activities, goals, and values. Females in the Nonparent group experienced an increase in satisfaction with these same consensus patterns. Despite new parents' overall decline in marital satisfaction, these results do not provide support for transition to parenthood as a crisis because at both pretest and posttest, new parents reported significantly higher marital satisfaction than did nonparent couples. However, the results do suggest that examining marital satisfaction during transition to parenthood, as it was done in this study, provides information regarding the dynamic shifts taking place within the family at this time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-305
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Family Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

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