DAILY RELATIONAL PROCESSES AMONG NEW PARENTS TRANSITIONING TO PARENTHOOD

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Le, Yunying
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 09, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Steffany Fredman, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Steffany Fredman, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Mark Ethan Feinberg, Committee Member
  • Sy-Miin Chow, Committee Member
  • Amy Dyanna Marshall, Outside Member
  • Lesley Anne Ross, Program Head/Chair
Keywords:
  • dyadic daily diary
  • coparenting
  • couple closeness
  • first-time parents
  • capitalization
Abstract:
The transition to parenthood is a challenging time for many couples, as they have fewer resources to devote to the romantic aspect of their relationship while simultaneously establishing a new relationship domain in the form of coparenting. Couple functioning and coparenting play critical roles in family functioning. Better understanding of the interplay between these two aspects of the couple relationship at the daily level and identification of ways to enhance these experiences at the daily level in one or both of these domains in the early parenting years has important implications for promoting the overall family adjustment. In this dissertation, I examined how couples’ relationship feelings and coparenting are linked from one day to the next and the daily relational benefits of capitalization, a positive relational process, on couples’ daily relationship experiences in these two domains. Data for this dissertation were drawn from 141 heterosexual couples who participated in a daily diary study for eight consecutive days at 10 months postpartum. In Study 1, I examined the association between couples’ daily feelings of relationship closeness and perceived coparenting support. For both mothers and fathers, I found a cross-day within-person bidirectional link between daily relationship closeness and perceived coparenting support. I also found an indirect effect from mothers’ daily perceived coparenting support to fathers’ daily relationship closeness through fathers’ daily feelings of relationship closeness. In Study 2, I examined the same-day and cross-day relational impacts of capitalization processes (i.e., capitalization attempts and perceived partner responsiveness) on couples’ daily relational experiences (i.e., closeness and perceived coparenting support) in the context of each partner’s prior-night sleep. Partners’ prior-night sleep did not predict the likelihood of one’s own or partner’s daily capitalization attempts. For both mothers and fathers, sharing the most iii positive event of the day with the other was associated with better daily relational experiences, with some evidence of gender difference and domain specificity. Specifically, on days when mothers shared, both partners reported higher levels of daily closeness and, when the event shared concerned the child, the relational benefits were further enhanced for fathers in both domains. On days when fathers shared, mothers reported higher levels of daily closeness and perceived coparenting support, and there were greater benefits for mothers’ perceived coparenting support when the event shared concerned the child. For both mothers and fathers, the benefits for both relational domains were stronger with higher levels of perceived partner responsiveness. Daily relational benefits did not persist into the next day or differ as a function of partners’ prior-night sleep. In sum, the results of this dissertation (1) elucidate the interplay between new parents’ feelings about their relationship as a couple and the emerging coparenting relationship at the daily level; (2) highlight the unique importance of mothers’ feeling supported in coparenting on a daily basis during this developmental period, and (3) demonstrate the relational benefits of capitalization processes in both couples’ romantic and coparenting domains at the daily level for new parents. From a translational perspective, findings suggest that promoting capitalization processes among new parents within the first year of parenthood may be a low cost, high yield intervention strategy to potentiate couples’ daily relational experiences with respect to both couple closeness and perceived coparenting support.