The birth of a first child can put a real strain on a marriage, but the relationship adjusts much more quickly after the birth of the second child, new research has found.
Previous studies have suggested that marital happiness continues to drop with the birth of each child, however the new study, by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that most married couples managed the transition of a second baby with little problem and remained positive about their marriage.
"Even when there was significant change, it was often short-lived, attesting to family resilience rather than crisis after the birth of a couple's second child," said Brenda Volling, a psychology professor and the study's lead author.
The study identified six different types of marriage, based on how marital relations changed over the year following the birth. In around 44% of couples, the wives reported small declines in positive marital relations, but no increase in marital conflict. Husbands reported a honeymoon period with less conflict in the month following the birth.
However, the study also found that some couples found the transition more difficult. Husbands and wives had different views about their marriages, with the men claiming their marriages were more satisfying and positive than the women.
Communication, particularly about child care responsibilities, was found to be an important factor in marital satisfaction.
According to Brenda Volling, couples who communicated positively and received support from family and friends were able to cope with stress, which prevented marital decline.
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