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Background and objectives: A number of sources suggest changes in anxiety across the transition to parenthood may be experienced by parents in different ways, yet no studies have examined whether new parents experience changes in anxiety in distinct subgroups. Design: We conducted a longitudinal study of 208 first-time parents (104 couples) from a low-risk population. Parents were interviewed from the third trimester of pregnancy to nine-months postpartum. Methods: The current study utilized latent class growth analysis to explore subgroups of change in symptoms of anxiety. Based on stress and coping theory, we also examined a number of personal and social prenatal predictors of subgroup membership. Results: We identified two distinct change trajectories: (1) moderate and stable and (2) low and declining. We also found prenatal depression, expected parenting efficacy, and relationship satisfaction were significantly associated with subgroup membership. Conclusions: Our results suggest a majority of new parents adjust well to parenthood in terms of anxiety, while a smaller subgroup of parents experience continually higher levels of anxiety months after the baby is born.
After the birth of a child, new mothers and fathers commonly have a substantial amount of contact with their parents and in-laws. However, this contact may not always result in emotional support. We tested if contact, rather than geographical distance, influenced emotional support received from parents and in-laws and whether there were gender differences in these associations. Online questionnaire data were collected in 2008 from a community sample of U.S. first-time mothers (n = 93) and fathers (n = 93) who were in a heterosexual relationship and living together. Results indicated that for new mothers, greater contact with own parents and in-laws was related to receiving more emotional support. However, for mothers, greater contact with parents also was related to less emotional support from in-laws. For new fathers, contact was not related to emotional support from either parents or in-laws. These findings suggest that receiving support as a result of contact with family members may be gendered, particularly for new mothers’ and fathers’ relationships with their in-laws. The current study highlights the importance of reducing stigmas about men and their emotional needs and of encouraging new fathers to seek and receive support from family during the transition to parenthood.
Researchers have suggested that apart from the actual division of household labor, housework ideology and spousal support also influence perceptions of fairness regarding the division of household labor. Furthermore, although only individual perceived fairness predictors are typically examined, researchers acknowledge that an individual’s perceived fairness is often contingent on a combination of characteristics within a couple. In addition to self-perceived fairness, we examined perceptions of fairness for spouse in 104 couples expecting their first child. Results indicate that couple-level actual division of housework and housework ideology significantly predict perceptions of fairness. Furthermore, our data provide evidence to suggest that some predictors’ influence may depend on the level of analysis (couple vs. individual), as well as the type of perceived fairness examined (self vs. spouse). Findings illustrate the importance of considering predictors at the dyadic level, as well as examining self-perceived fairness and spousal perceived fairness as separate constructs.
The transition to parenthood is a rite of passage for most adults; however, given the dynamic state of gender roles in society, the parameters surrounding the ease or difficulty with this transition are evolving. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the work included in the special issue, Gender and the Transition to Parenthood. Academic literature has been filled with articles on how women cope with the transition to parenthood from a variety of perspectives, including a feminist perspective. However, much of this literature is dated and cannot account for how today’s gender roles in society (particularly those of fathers) may influence the transition to parenthood. We argue that, with the rapidly changing gender roles in society, it is crucial to consider three perspectives in parenting: hers, his, and theirs. The ten works included in this special issue represent these three perspectives and seek to understand the transition to parenthood and its intersection with today’s gender roles. Based on these works, the authors encourage researchers interested in the transition to parenthood to incorporate both male and female perspectives, as well as the interplay between the genders in making the transition smooth or difficult. Following a brief overview of the existing literature, we introduce the articles in the special issue. All papers in this special issue are based on U.S. samples.
Although postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms are fairly common among new mothers and fathers, new parents still perceive a stigma associated with having the “baby blues.” Research has extensively examined the role of perceived stigma on help-seeking for clinical PPD, but little is known about the process of perceived stigma in new parents. We examined the role of perceived stigma in postpartum depressive symptoms using the dual-pathway model (Mickelson and Williams 2008). Specifically, we tested whether internalized stigma would influence PPD symptoms through parenting efficacy, whereas experienced stigma would influence PPD symptoms through indirect support-seeking. We also examined whether the internalized pathway was stronger for fathers while mothers would utilize both pathways. Using longitudinal data from a community sample of first-time parents in the United States, we found parenting efficacy was a mediator between internalized stigma and PPD symptoms for mothers and experienced stigma and PPD symptoms for fathers; indirect support-seeking was only a cross-sectional mediator for mothers between internalized stigma and PPD symptoms. Understanding how new mothers and fathers perceive the stigma attached to PPD symptoms and the process by which it impacts symptom reporting can help to improve interventions aimed at new parents.