How children serve to deepen a couple's marital bond: A qualitative study of great marriages
Literature exploring marriage and parenting experiences has been primarily problem-focused. Prior research has found that married couples are more likely to experience marital dissatisfaction after becoming parents. Recently, scholars have applied a strengths-based approach to the study of marriages and families. While a few studies have suggested that good marriages provide a basis for successful parenting, relatively little attention has been given to exploring how parenting experiences strengthen marital quality.
This study sought to describe the relationship between parenting experiences and marital quality as defined by couples that self-identified as having great, happy, satisfying, and high quality marriages. A qualitative, collective case study approach was chosen because it offered a more in-depth look at the intricacies of family life to help us understand how the processes of parenting and marriage interact.
Seven cases were randomly selected after screening for length of marriage, couples with children, and completeness of the questionnaire from those completed by couples participating in the great marriages research study. Themes were identified through review of the data; and within-case analysis and cross-case analyses were conducted with assertions drawn and presented.
Developed from the analyses were several important interpretations about the strengthening qualities of parental experiences for a couple's marital relationship. This study found that couples described their parenting experiences, as: (1) improving the quality of their marriage; (2) completing, unifying, and expanding their marriage; (3) challenges as opportunities; (4) contributing to positive emotions; (5) improving their interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills; (6) strengthening their respect, fondness, and admiration for their partner; (7) bringing excitement, maturation, and unification to their relationship; (8) strengthening their commitment to each other; (9) expanding their marital and spousal awareness and appreciation; and, (10) enhancing their sense of we-ness. This study is significant because of its contribution to the marriage and family strengths literature, and especially because it proposes that parental experiences can be strengthening to marital relationships.
0628: Personal relationships