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Enhancing relationship functioning during the transition to parenthood: a cluster-randomised controlled trial


This randomised controlled trial examined the feasibility of enhancing relationship functioning in couples during the transition to parenthood through the development and delivery of a low-intensity antenatal intervention. The 2-h psycho-educational programme marks the first of its kind to be trialled in the UK and was delivered as an adjunct to existing antenatal classes provided through the National Health Service. A cluster randomised design was used as antenatal classes rather than participants were randomly allocated to either treatment condition. Feasibility was assessed on the basis of pragmatic delivery and acceptability of the intervention. Data from 47 participants who received the intervention and 36 participants who did not was then compared to provide a preliminary indication of its effectiveness. Outcomes were assessed in terms of relationship satisfaction, couple communication and psychological distress. The intervention appeared feasible in terms of pragmatic delivery, rates of uptake and attendance at sessions. Participant evaluation forms also indicated that people were reasonably satisfied with the intervention and would recommend it to friends. Three significant phases × condition interactions were indicated using mixed-methods analyses of variance (ANOVAs); women in the intervention condition reported significantly less deterioration in relationship satisfaction (F(1, 44) = 3.11; p = 0.021; eta2 = 0.07), while men in the intervention condition reported significantly less deterioration in couple communication (F(1, 35) = 2.59; p = 0.029; eta2 = 0.08) and significant improvement in their experience of psychological distress (adjusted z = 1.99; p = 0.023; Cohen's d = 0.47). These positive preliminary indicators lend support to future large-scale investigation.

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Author information

Correspondence to Cathyrn Daley-McCoy.


Appendix 1

Table 5

Table 5 CONSORT checklist

Appendix 2

Table 6

Table 6 Intervention schedule

Appendix 3

Table 7

Table 7 Intervention checklist (Please tick to indicate that topics have been covered)

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Daley-McCoy, C., Rogers, M. & Slade, P. Enhancing relationship functioning during the transition to parenthood: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Arch Womens Ment Health 18, 681–692 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-015-0510-7

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  • Transition to parenthood,Relationship functioning,Antenatal intervention
  • Cluster RCT