Children Reduce Marital Satisfaction *Depending…

Researchers from the University of  Denver and Texas A&M recently published a paper indicating that 90% of new parents report decreased satisfaction in their marriage following the birth of their first child. The researchers followed 218 couples over 8 years. If all you read was this headline, you would have only three things to conclude. First, if you don’t have kids and are in love, then “Don’t have them!” Second, if you have kids and your marriage is still going well, maybe you’re deluding yourself. Third, if you have kids and things have gone downhill, you have validation for how difficult it has been. And lastly, if you don’t have kids because you’ve never wanted them, you now have more validation.

The problem is the picture becomes considerably more complex once the details are revealed. First, couples without children also notice a decline in their relationship satisfaction. The researchers note that having a child merely exacerbates this for a while. They do not say how long “a while” is. Does that mean that things improve thereafter? If so, when? In addition, they specifically note that the study focused on the couples’ first child. Does a second child produce the same effect? It stands to reason that the stress of having your very first child,when you know little about raising children, your sleep deprived and overwhelmed, will negatively impact your marriage – for a while.

Further into the article you find that there are several moderators. For instance, couples who were married longer prior to their child’s birth, or who had higher incomes, stated that their relationships got stronger. This suggests that people should not have kids immediately after getting married and should give themselves an opportunity to grow and build a strong foundation for their relationship. It also leads to the conclusion that having more resources helps reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and improves marital satisfaction. We spoke some time back on FamilyAnatomy about the importance of taking time as a couple as a way of maintaining a strong spousal relationship. Families with higher incomes are able to do this more readily. Families of modest means need to work harder to achieve this result.

Did having kids negatively impact your marriage? For how long? Has your marriage recovered? Has it flourished with kids? Leave us a comment, we’d like to know what you think.

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