Parenting Stress and Sexual Satisfaction Among First-Time Parents: A Dyadic Approach

Abstract

The present paper reports on longitudinal associations between parenting stress and sexual satisfaction among 169 heterosexual couples in the first year after the birth of a first child. Actor Partner Interdependence Modeling (APIM) was used to model the effects of the mother’s and father’s parenting stress at 6 months after birth on sexual satisfaction at 1 year after birth. Based on social constructivist theory and scarcity theory, two hypotheses were posed: (a) mothers’ parenting stress will predict their own later sexual satisfaction whereas fathers’ parenting stress will not predict their own later sexual satisfaction (actor effects) and (b) mothers’ parenting stress will predict fathers’ later sexual satisfaction but fathers’ parenting stress will not predict mothers’ later sexual satisfaction (partner effects). On average, parents were only somewhat satisfied with their sex life. The first hypothesis was supported as greater parenting stress significantly predicted lower sexual satisfaction for mothers but not for fathers. The second hypothesis was also supported as mothers’ greater parenting stress significantly predicted less sexual satisfaction in fathers, whereas fathers’ parenting stress did not significantly predict mothers’ sexual satisfaction. We discuss how our results may be interpreted considering the social construction of gendered family roles.

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The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Chelom E. Leavitt.

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The authors of this manuscript have complied with all ethical standards outlined for academic scholarship.

Funding

This study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (K23 HD042575) and the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH064125-01), Mark E. Feinberg, principal investigator. Time on the preparation of this paper was partially supported for the second and third authors by Award Number T32 DA017629 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Feinberg created the Family Foundations program and is the owner of a private company, Family Gold, which disseminates the Family Foundations program. Dr. Feinberg’s financial interest has been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board and the Conflict of Interest Committee at Penn State. No other conflict of interest is known for any other author.

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PSU IRB approved the study and procedures; all adult participants were provided approved informed consent forms and signed them after being given the chance to ask questions.

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Leavitt, C.E., McDaniel, B.T., Maas, M.K. et al. Parenting Stress and Sexual Satisfaction Among First-Time Parents: A Dyadic Approach. Sex Roles 76, 346–355 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0623-0

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Keywords

  • Parental role
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Marital relations
  • Stress
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Intimacy