Relationship satisfaction trajectories across the transition to parenthood among low-risk parents

Brian P. Don, Kristin D. Mickelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have established that new parents, on average, experience declines in relationship satisfaction, yet many sources suggest not all parents experience the transition to parenthood in the same way. The authors argue that new parents experience changes in relationship satisfaction in heterogeneous patterns, with only subgroups demonstrating steep declines. Furthermore, on the basis of the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation model, they examined actor and partner prenatal risk factors for experiencing different patterns of change. Among a sample of 206 new parents, they found the majority of mothers (79.4%) and about half of fathers (51.0%) experienced only moderate amounts of change, whereas smaller subgroups demonstrated steep declines. Results from analyses of the predictors of subgroup membership supported interdependence theory, because it was almost exclusively partner risk factors that predicted subgroup membership. Specifically, paternal positive support and anxiety predicted maternal subgroup membership and paternal positive support, maternal self-esteem, and maternal daily stress predicted paternal subgroup membership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-692
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Transition to parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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