Does Motherhood Get Easier the Second-Time Around? Examining Parenting Stress and Marital Quality Among Mothers Having Their First or Second Child

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Objective . The ease or difficulty with which a woman makes the transition to motherhood has a significant impact on her, her marriage, and her ability to care for the child. Factors affecting this transition, mothers' perceptions of their marriages, and the stress mothers were experiencing were assessed. Design . Mothers expecting a first (N = 40) or second child (N = 42) were surveyed during their third trimester of pregnancy and at 1 month postpartum. Parenting stress, marital quality, and perceptions of marital roles were assessed both times. Results . Mothers in both groups reported equivalent levels of stress, which increased among all mothers from the prenatal to the postnatal assessment. Positive aspects of marital quality were shown to decline over time for all mothers. In addition, all mothers reported that they were more responsible for household duties at 1-month postpartum. First-time mothers showed increases in role differentiation and decreases in satisfaction with roles across the transition; whereas, second-time mothers' reports were relatively stable. The effects of age, length of marriage, and employment status were considered. Conclusions. Mothering does not get easier, nor more difficult, the second time around. Since changes in the marriage differ for first- and second-time mothers, the sources of stress may differ. The marital relationship may buffer stress for second-time mothers.


Parenting: Science and Practice





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