The Effect of the Transition to Parenthood on Relationship Quality: An 8-Year Prospective Study

Brian D. Doss, Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, Howard J. Markman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

390 Scopus citations


This longitudinal study examined the effect of the birth of the 1st child on relationship functioning using data from 218 couples (436 individuals) over the course of the first 8 years of marriage. Compared with prebirth levels and trajectories, parents showed sudden deterioration following birth on observed and self-reported measures of positive and negative aspects of relationship functioning. The deterioration in these variables was small to medium in size and tended to persist throughout the remaining years of the study. Mothers and fathers showed similar amounts of change after birth. The amount of postbirth deterioration in relationship functioning varied systematically by several characteristics of the individual, the marriage, and the pregnancy itself. In a group of couples who did not have children, results indicated more gradual deterioration in relationship functioning during the first 8 years of marriage without the sudden changes seen in parents, suggesting that the results seen in the parent sample may be due to birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-619
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • parent
  • prediction
  • relationship functioning
  • transition to parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Psychology


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