How couples manage parenting forecasts later marital quality, study finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio Just because a married couple has a good relationship when a child is born is no guarantee the marriage will stay that way as their child grows older, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that how a couple manages their parenting responsibilities when their child is 6 months old is related to the quality of their marriage when their child is 3.

Couples who had a good relationship with each other when their child was an infant but had conflicts regarding parenting were more likely to have a poorer couple relationship when their child was 3.

"It may seem that a good marriage relationship would protect a couple, but parenting can change a lot in a how husbands and wives relate to each other," said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.

"The issues you confront in parenting aren't typically the kind of issues you've confronted before you had children. That can make a big difference in your relationship."

Schoppe-Sullivan conducted the study with Sarah Mangelsdorf of the University of Illinois, Cynthia Frosch of the University of Arizona and Jean McHale. Their results appear in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

The study involved 46 families from Illinois. Each of the families was studied when the couples had a child who was 6 months old and then again when the same child was 3 years old.

At 6 months, the researchers conducted an at-home observation in which the parents were observed playing with their child together, and observed as a couple while completing a questionnaire together about how they divided household responsibilities. Parents also completed questionnaires about how they viewed their marital relationship.

When the researchers observed the parents playing with the child, they looked for evidence of supportive coparenting when the parents clearly enjoyed

Contact: Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan
Ohio State University

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