COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Couples with infants who are particularly fussy or difficult typically do just fine as parents as long as they have a strong marital relationship.
A new study found that a couple's relationship with each other was key in determining how they reacted as parents when faced with a temperamental baby.
"When couples with a supportive marital relationship have a difficult baby, they tend to rise to the challenge," said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
"Couples who don't have a strong relationship with each other are more likely to undermine each other and get into conflicts when they have to deal with a particularly challenging baby."
Schoppe-Sullivan conducted the study with Sarah Mangelsdorf and Geoffrey Brown of the University of Illinois, and Margaret Szewczyk Sokolowski of Minneapolis. Their results were published in a recent issue of the journal Infant Behavior & Development.
Schoppe-Sullivan said there has been surprisingly little study about how the characteristics of an infant can affect how couples interact as parents what researchers call the "coparenting relationship."
While there have been studies examining how mothers themselves deal with difficult babies, this study focused on how mothers and fathers work together as parents.
"We wanted to find out how coparenting is affected when a couple has a child who cries a lot, cries intensely, and has trouble adjusting to new situations and new circumstances," she said.
The study involved 97 couples from Illinois who were expecting a baby (two-thirds of them were having their first child).
About three months before the child was born, the couples participated in a 2-hour home assessment. They completed a series of questionnaires, and were videotaped participating in a discussion with each other. Resear
Contact: Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan
Ohio State University