Saturday, February 14, 2009

Marriage Quality and Having Children

I am reading Till Children Do Us Part online at The New York Times and thinking this is interesting but I was not sure whether to post or not. What got me the most was that marriage with kids is difficult and there is no one path to success.

"HALF a century ago, the conventional wisdom was that having
a child was the surest way to build a happy marriage. Women’s magazines of that era promised that almost any marital problem could be resolved by embarking on parenthood. Once a child arrives, “we don’t worry about this couple any more,” an editor at Better Homes and Gardens enthused in 1944. “There are three in that family now. ... Perhaps there is not much more needed in a recipe for happiness.”"


Over the past two decades, however, many researchers have concluded that three’s a crowd when it comes to marital satisfaction. More than
25 separate studies have established that marital quality drops, often quite steeply, after the transition to parenthood. And forget the “empty nest” syndrome: when the children leave home, couples report an increase in marital happiness.

But does the arrival of children doom couples to a less satisfying marriage? Not necessarily. Two researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, Philip and Carolyn Cowan, report in a forthcoming briefing paper for the Council on Contemporary Families that most studies finding a large drop in marital quality after childbirth do not consider the very different routes that couples travel toward parenthood.


The Cowans found that the average drop in marital satisfaction was
almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into being parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.


When the Cowans designed programs to help couples resolve these
differences, they had fewer conflicts and higher marital quality. And the children did better socially and academically because their parents were happier. But keeping a marriage vibrant is a never-ending job.
Deciding together to have a child and sharing in child-rearing do not immunize a marriage. Indeed, collaborative couples can face other problems. They often embark on such an intense style of parenting that they end up paying less attention to each other.

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