There are disagreements about how bad that decline really is, whether it is worse for men or women, and what helps prevent it. And because researchers can’t randomly assign people to have children or not, we can never have the necessary experimental evidence to definitely say that parenthood is bad for marriage. But studies of couples who were followed from before they had children until years after their first child was born (and compared to couples who did not have children) seem to consistently show that for a sizeable portion of couples, having a child is hard on the relationship.
But these studies also show that this hit to your relationship is not an inevitability. There is always variability and some couples in these studies aren’t in a downward trajectory after having their first child. Of course, we all want to know how to be one of these couples. Some of it is not easy to change—having more financial resources, having a planned pregnancy, and having parents who didn’t divorce have all been suggested as protective factors. And of course, prioritizing your relationship and finding time together as a couple is important. But that is easier said than done. To read more from Amie Gordon, click here.