The transition to parenthood in first-time fathers: a systematic review of the literature
The transition of parenthood focussing predominately on first-time Fathers accounts: A literature review.
For a couple experiencing the birth of their first child, this period can be one of great change and unsettlement, but it is a most common example of change within a marital relationship. Several studies have proposed that couples find that the transition into parenthood the most demanding with the birth of their first child. Research indicates that it is typical for couples to experience a decline in the quality of their relationship in the early years, showing that a ‘large percentage of couples divorce or end their relationship in the first five years’ There is an abundance of research on the transitions into parenthood. However, there has been little into the experiences of the fathers. The aim of this study therefore is to evaluate the current studies that have reported the transition of parenthood from the father’s perspective and will look at emergent themes that are identified throughout. Electronic databases such as psychINFO and psychARTICLES were searched together with journals and reference lists these were then analysed for inclusion for the review and a total of seven studies were identified. The eight qualitative studies all aimed to address first time parents and their experiences of having a child in some capacity. A theme that seemed apparent in all of the studies was that the father felt ‘side-lined’ and It was noted that parent education is aimed more at the impending mother than that of the father even though the father’s involvement is equally important. It was shown that mental health in first-time fathers can be affected and this could therefore put their relationship and family health at risk and an awareness of this is of paramount importance among the professionals involved with first-time parents. It is imperative that the needs of the father be recognised and supported as a parent-to-be. Health professionals need to recognise fathers as valued contributors and uphold their important position
Research indicates that it is typical for couples to experience a decline in the quality of their relationship in the early years of parent-hood. A ‘large percentage of couples divorce or end their relationship in the first five years’ (Markman & Hahlweg, 1993). Moreover, if the relationship continues, research findings propose that what materialises initially in the relationship governs the quality of the relationship in the future (Veroff et al, 2000). For a couple experiencing the birth of their first child, this period can be one of great change and unsettlement, but it is a most common example of change within a marital relationship. Several studies have proposed that couples find that the transition into parenthood the most demanding with the birth of their first child (Cowan & Cowan, 2000). There is an abundance of research on the transitions into parenthood. However, there has been little into the experiences of the fathers. It appears that pregnancy, as opposed to the postnatal period, would appear to be the most stressful period for men undergoing the transitional stage into fatherhood (Condon, Boyce & Corkingdale, 2003). Several risk factors have been identified which include: men appear to have less of a social network of support than women and ultimately rely more so on their parents (Cronenwett & Kunst-Wilson, 1981); men seem to hold more responsibility in providing material provision for the new family, and therefore experience further work and financial pressures (Zelkowitz & Miller, 1997). Condon et al. (1997) put forward that several men lacked the role model of a father figure, or have been brought up by fathers in times where men were far less involved in the birth and child raising. They also suggest that younger...
References: Condon, J.T., Boyce P., & Corkingdale, C.J. (2003). The First-Time Fathers Study: a prospective study of the mental health and wellbeing of men during the transition to parenthood. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38,56–64.
Condon J, Corkindale CJ. (1997). The correlates of antenatal attachment in pregnant women. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 70, 359–372.
Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2000). When partners become parents: The big life change in couples. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cronenwett, L. R., & Kunst Wilson, W. (1981). Stress, social support, and the transition to fatherhood. Nursing Research, 30, 196-201.
Markman, H. & Hahlweg, K. (1993) The prediction and prevention of marital distress: an international perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 29-43.
Veroff, J., Young, A. & Coon, H. (2000) The Early Years of Marriage in R. Milardo & S. Duck,
(eds) Families as Relationships. Chichester: Wiley.
Zelkowitz, P.,& Milet, T.H. (1997). Postpartum psychiatric disorders: their relationship to psychological adjustment and marital satisfaction in the spouses. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105(2), 281-5.
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