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The Best and Worst of Times: Predictors of New Fathers’ Parenting Satisfaction and Stress

Abstract

This study examined predictors of new fathers’ parenting satisfaction and stress using data from 182 fathers in dual-earner couples who were followed across their transition to parenthood. Expectant fathers completed surveys about their personal characteristics (anxiety, belief in maternal essentialism, parenting self-efficacy expectations) and family relationships (confidence in the couple relationship) during the third trimester of pregnancy. At 3 months postpartum, fathers completed surveys about their family relationships (maternal gatekeeping) and child characteristics (infant negative emotionality, infant gender), as well as their parenting satisfaction and stress. Results of regression analyses indicated that expectant fathers with greater parenting self-efficacy expectations reported less parenting stress and greater satisfaction at 3 months postpartum. More anxious expectant fathers were at risk of experiencing elevated levels of parenting stress postpartum, as were fathers with lower endorsement of maternal essentialism and infants highly negative in mood. Fathers were more satisfied in their roles as parents when mothers engaged in greater gate-opening behavior, particularly when those fathers expressed less confidence in their couple relationships prior to their child’s birth. Results indicate the importance of screening expectant and new fathers for anxiety, strengthening expectant fathers’ parenting self-efficacy, and encouraging greater maternal support for engaged fathering.

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Data are available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant CAREER 0746548), with additional support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant 1K-1HD056238), and The Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Grant R24HD058484) and program in Human Development and Family Science. We also acknowledge Claire M. Kamp Dush’s invaluable contributions to the design and execution of the New Parents Project.

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Correspondence to Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Schoppe-Sullivan, S.J., Donithen, R.W., Lee, Jk. et al. The Best and Worst of Times: Predictors of New Fathers’ Parenting Satisfaction and Stress. ADV RES SCI 2, 71–83 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42844-021-00032-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42844-021-00032-y

Keywords

  • Fathers
  • Parenting stress
  • Parenting satisfaction
  • Transition to parenthood
  • Maternal gatekeeping