The Effect of the Transition to Parenthood on the Marriage Relationship: A Longitudinal Study

Susan M. McHale, Ted L. Huston

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81 Scopus citations


A longitudinal study of newlyweds explored the impact of parenthood on marriages. Couples who became parents during the first year of marriage were compared with couples who remained childless during the year. Data were collected about two months after the couples weddings and again about a year later. Data concerning the behavioral properties of marriage (e.g., amount of companionship, sex roles) were gathered by phone interviews; data pertaining to the partners satisfaction were obtained during face-to-face interviews. The results confirmed earlier research in showing that the transition to parenthood affects companionship and marital role patterns, but no evidence was found to support the idea that parenthood is associated with a decline in the partners evaluations of one another (love) or their marriage (marital satisfaction). Both the parent and nonparent groups showed significant declines in love and satisfaction. Moreover, the properties of the marriages and the evaluations by the partners of one another were equally stable during the year for the two groups. The data show that many of the changes attributed to parenthood also occur among nonparents and thus indicate the importance of using comparison groups of nonparents in research on the transition to parenthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-433
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1985

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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