Original Article

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 170-179

First online:

Married With Children: The Influence of Parental Status and Gender on Ambulatory Blood Pressure

  • Julianne Holt-LunstadAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Brigham Young University Email author 
  • , Wendy BirminghamAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Utah
  • , Adam M. HowardAffiliated withSchool of Medicine, University of Utah
  • , Dustin ThomanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, California State University

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Although there is substantial evidence that social relationships and marriage may influence both psychological and physical health, little is known about the influence of children.


This study examined the competing predictions regarding the directional influence of parental status and its interaction with gender—given that mothers are typically disproportionately more responsible for everyday care of children—on cardiovascular functioning.


We examined ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) over 24 hours among 198 married males and females.


Couples without children had significantly higher ambulatory SBP and DBP than those with children. Moreover, we found a significant interaction between parental status and gender that suggested women with children showed the lowest ABP, whereas women without children displayed the highest ABP.


These findings suggest that parenthood, and especially motherhood, may be cardioprotective.


Ambulatory blood pressure Parental status Marriage Children Stress Cardiovascular