Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
To date, most research on parents' adjustment after adding a new baby to their family unit has focused on mothers' initial transition to parenthood. This past research has examined changes in mothers' marital satisfaction and perceived well-being across the transition, and has compared their prenatal expectations to their postnatal experiences. This project assessed first-time and experienced mothers' stress and satisfaction associated with parenting, their adjustment to competing demands, and their perceived well-being longitudinally before and after the birth of a baby. Additionally, how maternal and child-related variables influenced the trajectory of mothers' postnatal adaptation was assessed. These variables included mothers' age, their education level, their prenatal expectations and postnatal experiences concerning shared infant care, their satisfaction with the division of infant caregiving, and their perceptions of their infant's temperament. Mothers (N = 136) completed an online survey during their third trimester and additional online surveys when their baby was approximately 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks old.;First-time mothers prenatally expected a more equal division of infant caregiving between themselves and their partners than did experienced mothers. Both first-time and experienced mothers reported less assistance from their partners than they had prenatally expected. Additionally, they experienced almost twice as many violated expectations than met expectations. Growth curve modeling revealed that a cubic function of time best fit the trajectory of mothers' postnatal parenting satisfaction. Mothers reported less parenting satisfaction at 4 weeks, compared to 2 and 6 weeks, and reported stability in their satisfaction between 6 and 8 weeks. A quadratic function of time best fit the trajectories of mothers' postnatal parenting stress and adjustment to the demands of their baby. Mothers reported more stress and difficulty adjusting to their baby's demands at 4 and 6 weeks, compared to 2 and 8 weeks. A linear function of time best fit the trajectories of mothers' adjustment to home demands, generalized state anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Mothers reported less difficulty meeting home demands, less generalized anxiety, and fewer depressive symptoms across the postnatal period. Mothers' violated expectations were associated with level differences in all aspects of mothers' postnatal adaptation except their adjustment to home demands. Specifically, more violated expectations, in number or in magnitude, were associated with poorer postnatal adaptation. Mothers' violated expectations were not associated with the slope of mothers' postnatal adaptation trajectories. Exploratory models revealed that other maternal and child-related variables also impacted the level and slope of mothers' postnatal adaptation.;Overall, first-time and experienced mothers were more similar than different in regards to their postnatal adaptation. This study suggests that prior findings concerning adults' initial transition to parenthood may also apply to adults during each addition of a new baby into the family unit. Additionally, mothers who reported less of a mismatch between their expectations and experiences concerning shared infant care had fewer issues adapting the postnatal period. Thus, methods to increase the assistance mothers receive from their partner should be sought. Limitations of this study and suggestions for future research are also discussed.
Powell, Darcey N., "Mothers' Adaptation to Caring for a New Baby" (2014). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6443.