Get access

Intergenerational Transmission of Marital Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood


  • This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 32-32330.91).

concerning this article should be addressed to Sonja Perren, Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich, Culmannstrassel, CH-8006 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:


One of the most frequently reported changes across the transition to parenthood is a decline in marital quality after the birth of a first baby. Experiences in the family of origin may influence the trajectory of marital quality. Our study aimed to investigate the impact of recollections of family-of-origin marriage on marital quality (self-reports and clinical evaluation) from pregnancy to 1 year after the birth of a first child. A total of 62 first-time parents completed questionnaires (self-reported marital satisfaction) and clinical interviews (clinical evaluation of couples' dialogue quality). Although self-reported marital satisfaction and observed dialogue quality were highly associated, only self-reported marital satisfaction declined from pregnancy to 1 year after birth. This decrease was partly due to very high marital satisfaction during pregnancy. Different trajectories for self-reported marital satisfaction and observed dialogue quality were found for participants with recollections of low-, average-, and high-quality family-of-origin marriage. A structural equation model showed that participants who recollected a negative quality in their parents' relationship reported more negative changes in the quality of their own marriages. There seems to be an intergenerational transmission of marital quality that comes to light when couples are challenged by the birth and rearing of a baby.