Sunday, June 20, 2010

Babies Don't Make Your Marriage Go Sour - If You Are Religious

This week I will blog on a fine family sociology conference I am attending at Princeton.

In general, couples report that their satisfaction with their marriage goes down when their first child is born. Brad Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew found, though, that this is mostly true for secular women. For religious women who share a faith and a religious community with their husbands, having a baby does not make them less happy with their marriage.

I think this is because religious couples can see having a baby as a meaningful, even sacred act, which they are doing for others as well as for their own little family.


Katie said...

I would argue instead that it's the religious community that helps keep marriages happy post-baby. Without a strong support network to help once the baby arrives, a couple is more likely to be overcome by the stresses of having a new baby. Don't underestimate how valuable it can be to a couple with a newborn to have meals made or babysitting offered. Religious communities offer a large pool of cooks, babysitters, and experienced moms to lend advice.

Kelly said...

Is this permanent unhappiness, or a more transient, stress related feeling? I agree that strong community support can make a huge difference, if it's unhappiness that comes from the stress of having a new baby, and that type of support is almost always from a religious community.
I'd think it has more to do with the kind of parent you think your spouse is and less to do with how happy you are with your relationship as a duo vs a trio. If I'm happy in my marriage before the baby but then don't like who my husband is as a father, it probably won't matter much what I think of him as a partner.
I guess that assumes people can separate the two, but that's probably not how it usually works. You hear of people who divorce but still respect each other as parents, but I doubt there are a lot of people who are happy with their marital relationship but unhappy with their spouse's parenting.
Also, I don't think you should assume that non-religious couples don't see having a baby as meaningful, sacred and of great importance outside of their families. Obviously it's not true of everyone, but I think most couples who plan their pregnancies feel that way, at lease subconsciously.

Gruntled said...

In general, couples are happiest at the honeymoon, trend downward for a time, pitch downward with kids, then, head to a second high point in the empty-nest years.