Marital satisfaction drops significantly after the first baby

Tags: parenthood pregnancy marriage

More than 80% of couples experience a huge drop in marital quality during transition to parenthood [1].

Marital quality peaks in the third trimester of the first pregnancy and then drops anywhere from 40 to 67 percent in the infant's first year [1, pp. 58] and then continues to decline over the next 15 years. Typically, it does not bounce back until the kids leave the house.

One study found that a reliable predictor for divorce was whether or not both parents wanted to have children. In couple's where both parents wanted to have kids, divorce was rare; however, when one of the two parents had to be talked into it (usually the male), divorce was much more common [1, pp. 59].

Not all marriages suffer equally (some couples even report an increase in marital satisfaction, although these are not the majority). "Planning status and pre-pregnancy marital satisfaction generally protect marriages from these declines" [2].

The four biggest factors that impact marital satisfaction are

  1. Lack of sleep
  2. Social isolation
  3. Unequal distribution of household work
  4. Depression

Awareness of these allows couples to create a buffer against them.

Empathy is one of the most effective buffers against marital conflict and regular practice of empathy is critical in maintaining a healthy and happy marriage.

References

  1. Medina, John. Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. Seattle: Pear Press, 2014.

  2. Lawrence, Erika, Alexia D. Rothman, Rebecca J. Cobb, Michael T. Rothman, and Thomas N. Bradbury. “Marital Satisfaction across the Transition to Parenthood.” Journal of Family Psychology 22, no. 1 (2008): 41–50. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.22.1.41.