Changes in Relationship Satisfaction Across the Transition to Parenthood: A Meta-Analysis

Danielle M. Mitnick, Richard E. Heyman, Amy M. Smith Slep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The U.S. government has recently spent several hundred million dollars to promote healthy relationships in new parents. The influx of money implies that relationships of new parents are at elevated risk for declining satisfaction and dissolution. This meta-analysis aggregates data from 37 studies that track couples from pregnancy to after the birth of the first child and 4 studies that track childless newlywed couples over time and compare couples who do and do not become parents. Results indicate significant, small declines in relationship satisfaction for both men and women from pregnancy to 11 months postbirth; 5 studies that followed couples for 12-14 months found moderate-sized declines. Seven variables moderated the decrease in relationship satisfaction from pregnancy to early parenthood. However, the decrease in satisfaction may not indicate anything unique about the transition to parenthood; the 4 studies following newlyweds indicated that those who do not become parents experience a decrease in relationship satisfaction similar to that of parents across a comparable span of time. Implications for prevention and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-852
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • couples
  • meta-analysis
  • relationship satisfaction
  • transition to parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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