Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

New Parents' Psychological Adjustment and Trajectories of Early Parental Involvement

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

New Parents' Psychological Adjustment and Trajectories of Early Parental Involvement

Article excerpt

Parental involvement time, or the amount of "quality" time parents spend directly interacting with their young children in engagement (play) and caregiving activities, is crucial for child development (Lang et al., 2014). Belsky's (1984) theoretical model describes parental psychological adjustment as the most powerful determinant of parental involvement. Parents with poor psychological adjustment are less involved with their children, placing children at higher risk for maladaptive development (Ramchandani, Stein, Evans, & Connor, 2005). Although most studies linking parental psychological adjustment and involvement have centered on pathology, Belsky emphasized the importance of studying normative variations in psychological adjustment in association with parenting. Indeed, even well-functioning adults face increased risk for deteriorated psychological adjustment during the transition to parenthood (e.g., Paulson & Bazemore, 2010; Twamley, Brunton, Sutcliffe, Hinds, & Thomas, 2013). First-time parents, especially those in dual-earner families, are often under substantial time pressures from work and parenting demands (Roxburgh, 2012). Individual vulnerabilities, such as psychological adjustment difficulties, might aggravate this stress, placing first-time, working parents at risk of poor parenting, such as reduced quality time with infants.

Despite agreement regarding the importance of parental psychological adjustment for parental involvement, progress in theory and research in this area has been hampered by lack of attention to a number of key conceptual and methodological issues. Conceptualizations of parental involvement have often failed to differentiate between specific parenting domains (Pleck, 2010), which are likely differentially affected by parental psychological adjustment. Similarly, even though they share some underlying diathesis, different facets of psychological adjustment may be linked to parental involvement time in distinct ways, given variation in their manifestations (Clark & Watson, 1991; Heron, O'Connor, Evans, Golding, & Glover, 2004). Finally, few researchers have applied a systems perspective to studying associations between parental psychological adjustment and trajectories of parental involvement time, or they have considered how parental involvement responds to parents' own and their partner's psychological adjustment (but see Cabrera, Hofferth, & Chae, 2011) or how these associations may differ by parent gender.

In this study we extended Belsky's (1984) model and, in a longitudinal framework, examined how three aspects of parental psychological adjustment (i.e., dysphoria, anxiety, and empathic personal distress) are associated with the trajectories of parents' own and their partner's parental involvement time in two domains (engagement and child care) across infancy. We sought for more accurate characterization and prediction of early parental involvement time via three innovative efforts: (a) a conceptually and methodologically improved assessment of parental involvement time, (b) an appreciation of the multifaceted nature of parental psychological adjustment and differential associations with parenting, and (c) a systems approach that considered these associations for mothers and fathers at both an individual and a couple level. Examining the associations of parental psychological adjustment with parental involvement time in a low-risk, volunteer sample of highly educated, dual-earner families followed across the transition to parenthood will advance scholars' understanding of the longitudinal impact of normative psychological adjustment fluctuations on parenting in infancy. Even though our sample is not representative of all new-parent households in the United States, results from our study can serve as a baseline to evaluate early parenting and parental psychological adjustment in clinical populations or populations with different demographic and psychosocial characteristics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.