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Transition to Parenthood - Parenthood As Crisis Versus Transition To Parenthood, Changes In The Marital Relationship, Theoretical Assumptions, Alternative/multicultural Findings - Conclusion

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Within the family life-cycle literature, the addition of a first child to the marital system is considered one of the stages that a family will likely experience during its developmental lifetime. For the couple experiencing the birth of a first child, this change is one of most unsettling, but most common, examples of change within a marital relationship. Indeed, having a baby has been ranked as high as sixth out of 102 stressful life events (Dohrenwend et al. 1978). It is also one of the more common occurrences for a couple, with over 1,000,000 first-born babies born annually to couples in the United States (Statistical Abstract of the United States 2000). Nora Ephron, in the novel Heartburn, sums up the potential impact of a baby on the marital relationship: ". . . Now, of course, I realized something else no one tells you; that a child is a grenade. When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage, and when the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was. Not better, necessarily; not worse, necessarily; but different" (1983, p. 158).


The transition to parenthood is one of the most exciting life events a person can experience. Although this entry may paint a rather negative picture, much individual joy and potentially positive marital changes can occur as a result of having a baby. Belsky and Kelly observed that "some marriages decline and others improve during the transition" (1994, p. 17). All individuals and marriages, though, change as a result of a baby.


Bibliography

Belsky, J. (1985). "Exploring Individual Differences in Marital Change Across the Transition to Parenthood: The Role of Violated Expectations." Journal of Marriage and the Family 47:1037–1044.

Belsky, J., and Kelly, J. (1994). The Transition to Parenthood. New York: Delacorte Press.

Belsky, J.; Lang, M. E.; and Huston, T. L. (1986). "Sex Typing and Division of Labor as Determinants of Marital Change Across the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50:517–522.

Belsky, J.; Lang, M. E.; and Rovine, M. (1985). "Stability and Change in Marriage Across the Transition to Parenthood: A Second Study." Journal of Marriage and the Family 47:855–865.

Belsky, J.; Spanier, G.; and Rovine, M. (1983). "Stability and Change in Marriage Across the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Marriage and the Family 45:567–577.

Cowan, C. P., and Cowan, P. A. (1992). When Parents Become Partners: The Big Life Change For Couples. New York: Basic Books.

Cowan, C. P.; Cowan, P. A.; Coie, L.; and Coie, J. D. (1978). "Becoming a Family: The Impact of a First Child's Birth on the Couple's Relationship." In The First Child and Family Formation, eds. W. B. Miller and L. F. Newman. Chapel Hill: Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina.

Cowan, C. P.; Cowan, P. A.; Heming, G.; Garrett, E.; Coysh, W. S.; Curtis-Boles, H.; and Boles A. J., III. (1985). "Transitions to Parenthood: His, Hers, and Theirs." Journal of Family Issues 6:451–482.

Cowan, P. A., and Cowan, C. P. (1988). "Changes in Marriage During the Transition to Parenthood: Must We Blame the Baby?" In The Transition to Parenthood: Current Theory and Research, ed. G. Y. Michaels and W. A. Goldberg. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cox, M.; Paley, B.; Burchinal, M.; and Payne, C. (1999). "Marital Perceptions and Interactions Across the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Marriage and the Family 6:611–625.

Crohan, S. E. (1996). "Marital Quality and Conflict Across the Transition to Parenthood in African American and White Couples." Journal of Marriage and the Family 58:933–944.

Dohrenwend, B.; Krasnoff, L.; Askenasy, A.; and Dohrenwend, B. (1978). "Exemplification of a Method for Scaling Life Events." Journal of Health and Social Behavior 19:205–229.

Dyer, E. D. (1963). "Parenthood as Crisis: A Re-Study." Marriage and Family Living 25:196–201.

Entwisle, D. R., and Doering, S. G. (1981). The First Birth. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Ephron, N. (1983). Heartburn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Fedele, N. M.; Golding, E. R.; Grossman, F. K.; and Pollack, W. S. (1988). "Psychological Issues in Adjustment to First Parenthood." In The Transition to Parenthood: Current Theory and Research, ed. G. Y. Michaels and W. A. Goldberg. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Feldman, S. S. (1987). "Predicting Strain in Mothers and Fathers of 6-Month Old Infants: A Short Term Longitudinal Study." In Men's Transitions to Parenthood, eds. P. Berman and F. Pedersen. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Feldman, S. S., and Nash, S. C. (1984). "The Transition From Expectancy to Parenthood: Impact of the Firstborn Child on Men and Women." Sex Roles 11:61–78.

Hill, R. (1949). Families Under Stress. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Hobbs, D. F., Jr. (1965). "Parenthood as Crisis: A Third Study." Journal of Marriage and the Family 27:367–372.

Hobbs, D. F., Jr. (1968). "Transition to Parenthood: A Replication and an Extension." Journal of Marriage and the Family 30:413–417.

Johnson, E. M., and Huston, T. L. (1998). "The Perils of Love, or Why Wives Adapt to Husbands During the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Marriage and the Family 60:195–204.

Kach, J., and McGhee, P. (1982). "Adjustment to Early Parenthood: The Role of Accuracy of Preparenthood Expectations." Journal of Family Issues 3:361–374.

Lemasters, E. E. (1957). "Parenthood as Crisis." Marriage and Family Living 19:352–355.

Levy-Shiff, R.; Goldshmidt, I.; and Har-Even, D. (1991). "Transition to Parenthood in Adoptive Families." Developmental Psychology 27:131–140.

McHale, S. M., and Huston, T. L. (1985). "The Effect of the Transition to Parenthood on the Marriage Relationship: A Longitudinal Study." Journal of Family Issues 6:409–433.

Miller, B. C., and Sollie, D. L. (1980). "Normal Stresses During the Transition to Parenthood." Family Relations 29:459–465.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and Family Therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Pancer, S.; Pratt, M.; Hunsberger, B.; and Gallant, M. (2000). "Thinking Ahead: Complexity of Expectations and the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Personality 68:253–280.

Rossi, A. S. (1968). "Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Marriage and the Family 30:26–39.

Ruble, D.; Fleming, A.; Hackel, L.; and Stangor, C. (1988). "Changes in the Marital Relationship During the Transition to First-Time Motherhood." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 55:78–87.

Salmela-Aro, K.; Nurmi, J.; Saisto, T.; and Halmesmaeki, E. (2000). "Women's and Men's Personal Goals During the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Family Psychology 14:171–186.

Sanchez, L., and Thomson, E. (1997). "Becoming Mothers and Fathers: Parenthood, Gender, and the Division of Labor." Gender and Society 11:747–772.

Stamp, G. H. (1994). "The Appropriation of the Parental Role Through Communication During the Transition to Parenthood." Communication Monographs 61:89–112.

Stamp, G. H., and Banski, M. A. (1992). "The Communicative Management of Constrained Autonomy During the Transition to Parenthood." Western Journal of Communication 56:281–300.

Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2000, 120th edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

Tomlinson, P. (1996). "Marital Relationship Change in the Transition to Parenthood: A Reexamination as Interpreted Through Transition Theory." Journal of Family Nursing 2:286–305.

Wylie, M. L. (1979). "The Effect of Expectations on the Transition to Parenthood." Sociological Focus 12:323–329.

GLEN H. STAMP

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