Academic journal article Family Relations

The Relationship between Parent-Infant Bed Sharing and Marital Satisfaction for Mothers of Infants

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Relationship between Parent-Infant Bed Sharing and Marital Satisfaction for Mothers of Infants

Article excerpt

This study investigated the relationship between marital satisfaction and time spent bed sharing with infants in a community sample of 81 bed sharing mothers. Time spent bed sharing did not significantly predict variance in marital satisfaction when considering bed sharers as a whole. Moderation analysis, however, showed the interaction between time spent bed sharing and group classification either as "intentional," defined as parents who endorse the ideology of bed sharing, or "reactive," defined as parents who do not plan to bed share but bed share as a reaction to infant nighttime problems, explained a significant increase in variance in marital satisfaction, ΔR^sup 2^ = .075, F(1, 75) = 7.31, p = .008. None of the intended mediator variables (satisfaction with bed sharing, fatigue, and sexual satisfaction) were significantly correlated with time spent bed sharing. Results highlight the importance of recognizing the differences between intentional bed sharers and reactive bed sharers.

Key Words: mothers, satisfaction with marriage and close relationships, transition to parenthood.

The arrival of a new baby marks a period of change for first-time parents, as they negotiate the transition from a couple to a family (Belsky & Kelly, 1994). The family engages in the family stress process (Hill, 1958) as the family's equilibrium is disrupted and the couple is forced to make major adaptations and adjustments to their new life, moving from the spousal role to the parental role. Each couple may manage these changes differently, resulting in different levels of family satisfaction and functioning.

The ABC-X model of family stress developed by Hill (1958) serves as the framework for current theories of family stress (for a review, see Malia, 2006). Variable A is the stressor event, which causes change to the family's current state. The family's resources at the time of the event (variable B) and parental perceptions or meanings attached to the event (variable C) influence variable X, the level of stress the family experiences. Boss (2002) refined the ABC-X model to include both internal (e.g., structural) and external (e.g., developmental) contextual considerations. The birth of a baby is a normal developmental stressor event (Boss, 1 987). The changes in the family structure that an addition of a new baby brings can influence the quality of the marital relationship (LeMasters, 1957), thereby contributing to family stress. Changing the family's current sleeping routine and arrangement by bringing the infant to sleep in bed with the parents may cause varying levels of stress in the marital relationship, depending on the parents' perceptions of bed sharing.

Although some couples experience an increase in marital satisfaction during the transition to parenthood (Cowan & Cowan, 2000; Shapiro, Gottman, & Carrère, 2000), the majority (67%) experience a precipitous decline in marital quality within the first year after their infant's birth (Shapiro et al., 2000). Although many stressor events considered to contribute to changes in the marital relationship over the transition to parenthood have been explored, little research has addressed the link between marital satisfaction and parent-infant sleeping arrangements. The main purpose of this study is to describe the relationship between time spent parent-infant bed sharing and the mother's marital satisfaction at a point during the transition to parenthood.

Bed Sharing Practices

When distinguishing between the terms bed sharing and cosleeping, cosleeping is increasingly being used to refer to the parent(s) sleeping in close proximity to the infant on either the same sleeping surface (bed sharing) or different sleeping surfaces (room sharing; McKenna, Ball, & Gettler, 2007). Previous literature does not often distinguish between bed sharing and room sharing when cosleeping is being studied . Whenever possible, this article will note if the researchers specifically studied bed sharing or room sharing; otherwise the general term cosleeping will be used. …

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