Sense of *control and psychological well-being during the transition to parenthood
In this study, 153 dual-earner, working-class couples were interviewed on five occasions during the first transition to parenthood. New parents' depression and anxiety was examined during a span of 14 months to test hypotheses that mental health would deteriorate over time for new parents, but that having a sense of control would buffer some parents against negative mental health outcomes. It was speculated that the working-class sample may be at risk for poor mental health outcomes due to having less access to occupational, financial, social, and personal (e.g., perceived sense of control) resources.
Findings challenged the notion that a sense of control is exclusively a stable psychological trait and revealed that control is comprised of two distinct components: an enduring component and a malleable component that changes with context. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to demonstrate that, on average, mothers' depression followed a curvilinear pattern, dropping across the transition to parenthood and then rising again. On average, fathers reported a curvilinear pattern of anxiety, increasing over time and beginning to drop over the course of one year. There was also significant variability around new parents' mental health, illustrating that some parents increased, while others decreased or maintained stable levels of psychological well-being over time. Having a higher sense of enduring control predicted lower levels of psychological distress for new parents, and increases in control over time predicted decreases in depression and anxiety. Results hold important implications for intervention with new parents. Increasing expectant parents' sense of control can help them manage the transition to parenthood with psychological health, and can generalize to their taking action in other arenas such as the workplace.
0620: Developmental psychology