Division of Baby Care in Heterosexual and Lesbian Parents: Expectations Versus Reality

Esra Ascigil, Britney M. Wardecker, William J. Chopik, Robin S. Edelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: We examined the extent to which prenatal expectations matched postpartum reality, and the implications of expectancy violation for relationship quality at postpartum, among heterosexual and lesbian couples transitioning to parenthood. Background: During the transition to parenthood, soon-to-be parents form expectations about how their lives will change after their baby is born; however, these expectations may not match reality. Method: We longitudinally examined (a) expectancy violation in division of baby care among 47 heterosexual and lesbian couples transitioning to first-time parenthood (total N = 94 participants) and (b) the associations between expectancy violation and relationship quality at 3 and 10-months postpartum. Results: We found that expectations matched reality for lesbian couples, but not for heterosexual couples: Heterosexual mothers did more baby care than they expected, and fathers did less. Heterosexual birth mothers were less satisfied when they did more baby care than they expected, whereas fathers were both less satisfied and less invested in their relationship when they did more baby care than they expected. In contrast, for lesbian birth mothers and nonbirth mothers, doing more baby care than anticipated was not associated with postpartum relationship quality. These results remained even after controlling for prenatal relationship quality and timing of postpartum assessments. Conclusion: The extent to which prenatal expectations match postpartum reality, and the outcomes of expectancy violation, may be different for heterosexual and lesbian couples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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