Interactional processes and styles of marital adaptation to parenthood

Kathy Arlene McMahon (1988)

There is general agreement that the birth of the first child is a major event in the marital life cycle (Bradt, 1980). Yet few psychological studies examine how the marital process changes in response to environmental demands brought on by childbearing. One study from the sociological literature (LaRossa & LaRossa, 1981) has discussed marital process following the birth of the first child, but the theoretical explanation for their findings relies on three separate sociological theories. This dissertation is an effort to refine our current understanding of this transition by placing it squarely within the framework of family systems theory as articulated by Kantor and Lehr (1975) and Constantine (1986) (labeled here as "paradigmatic theory"). After presenting the major research findings of LaRossa and LaRossa (1981) and the general family systems model of paradigmatic theory, the dissertation integrates these theories, highlights the limitations of this integration, and delineates psychoeducational and clinical applications.