A new fathers views on his changing relationship with his wife or partner may depend in part on how much support he feels from her when he is caring for their baby, suggests a study from Ohio State University. Researchers found that a first-time father tended to feel closer to the mother both as a coparent and as a romantic partner when he believed he had her confidence when he was involved in child care.
"Fathers are more involved than they have ever been in parenting, but moms are still seen in our society as the expert caregivers," says lead author Anna Olsaysky, doctoral student in human sciences. "So, how mothers react to their partners' parenting matters a lot. It affects how new dads feel about their whole family situation, including his relationship with his wife or partner."
The study--done with relatively affluent, highly educated dual-earner couples and published in the journal Family Process--is one of few to focus on the transition to parenthood from the perspective of fathers, notes coauthor Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, professor of psychology.
The researchers used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study co-led by Schoppe-Sullivan that is investigating how dualearner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time. In all, 182 couples, most of whom were married, participated.
The parents were assessed four times: when the mother was in her third trimester of pregnancy and when the baby was three, six, and nine months old. When the baby was three months old, fathers answered questions about what researchers call "maternal gatekeeping," or how much the mother inhibits or welcomes the father's involvement in child care.
Fathers reported how much they felt their partner "opened' or "closed" the gate on them when it came to interacting with the baby. For instance, each dad reported on gate-closing behaviors...