Pregnancy is a time of anticipation for mothers and fathers. Both parents hold expectations of how they will succeed at accomplishing parenting tasks, and how they will adjust to the new baby and each other after the birth. “As with most research on the transition to parenthood, the majority of the literature focuses exclusively on the mother while neglecting the perspective of the father,” said Susanne N. Biehle of the Department of Psychology at Kent State University. “Because the transition to parenthood is typically experienced jointly by the mother and father, it is important to understand the potential interplay that can occur between partners and how it may impact the development of parenting efficacy.” Biehle looked at three specific factors relating to parenting efficacy: performance accomplishment, emotional arousal and verbal persuasion, to see how each influenced the development of parenting skills both pre- and post-partum. “Parenting efficacy is a specific aspect of self-efficacy which examines how competent a parent feels about their ability to positively influence both the development and behavior of their child.” Biehle added, “High levels of efficacy can increase a parent’s ability to engage in better parenting practices, whereas low levels of parenting efficacy have been associated with feelings of anxiety, depression, and distress.”
For her study, Biehle interviewed 104 expectant parents at the end of their pregnancy, one month after delivery and again when the baby was four months old. She found that the behavior and emotional state of one parent clearly affected the parenting efficacy of the other parent. “Specifically, for mothers, higher levels of playing with the baby at 1-month postpartum was correlated with higher depression and higher anxiety,” said Biehle. “On the other hand, for fathers, higher levels of caring for the baby at 1-month postpartum was correlated with higher levels of depression.” She added, “One of the most unique findings was the negative effect that mother’s playing with the baby had on father’s parenting efficacy development.” Biehle concluded by saying, “Our findings demonstrate that the experience of parenthood does not happen in isolation but rather is an event experienced by couples jointly, and has potential ramifications for parents both personally and for their co-parent.”
Biehle, Susanne N., and Kristin D. Mickelson. “Personal and Co-parent Predictors of Parenting Efficacy Across the Transition to Parenthood.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 30.9 (2011): 985-1010. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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