Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley

Committee Member

Mark W. Scerbo


The transition to parenthood is a uniquely important time in the human experience. New parents must reorganize their patterns of behavior and respective roles in order to include and care for a new child. Parents’ ability to navigate this process has great implications for child adjustment and healthy development. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the association of relationship satisfaction over the transition to parenthood and early coparenting interactions. The archival data utilized were collected as part of a longitudinal study of first time parents funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 2011. This study assessed three dimensions of coparenting, cooperation, warmth, and verbal sparring, which were coded during videotaped family sessions at 3 months postpartum. Relationship satisfaction was measured during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and at 1 month postpartum. Depression, division of labor in the household, and child temperament have also been associated with relationship satisfaction and coparenting. The ability of these factors to act as moderators impacting the strength of the association between relationship satisfaction and coparenting for first time parents was assessed. Findings indicated that father variables, such as father relationship satisfaction and father depression were important factors in the development of coparenting. Father depression interacted with father relationship satisfaction to predict all three coparenting variables. For fathers without depressive symptoms, relationship satisfaction significantly predicted coparenting; however, this was not the case for the fathers with depressive symptoms. Results suggest that if a father is depressed satisfaction in his relationship may not prevent the development of poor coparenting. Mother violated expectations for the division of labor positively predicted mother relationship satisfaction and difficult child temperament negatively predicted father relationship satisfaction as expected. These variables were not found to impact the strength of the association between father or mother relationship satisfaction and coparenting. The family systems and clinical implications of these findings were discussed and future directions for research were identified.


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