Transition to Parenting Within Context

Authored by: Jacqueline D. Shannon , Lisa Baumwell , Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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According to a life course perspective, individuals’ lives are constantly changing, and these changes follow trajectories that have developmental implications for the individual (Elder, 1998). One frequently studied transition experienced by most adult couples is the transition to parenthood, which occurs at the birth of a first child. Researchers have termed this the “family stage” in the developmental life cycle (Elder, 1998). When parents commit to the “family stage,” they experience high levels of excitement as well as the physical and psychological stresses associated with pregnancy, delivery, and raising a child (Belsky, Ward, & Rovine 1986). Theoretical work on the transition to parenthood suggests that parents’ adjustment to this phase influences future parent–child and coparental relationships (Florsheim, Moore, & Edgington, 2003). The demands of parenthood can lead to individual growth, especially when new parents are supported, or the challenges can be overwhelming, having deleterious effects on parent–child relationships and, ultimately, children's development and family relationships (Belsky, 1993).

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