Transition to parenthood: A comparison of previously infertile and fertile couples

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Harlan London


Parenthood, Fertility

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society


The purpose of this study was to determine how previously infertile couples compared with fertile couples during the transition to parenthood. A short-term longitudinal study compared 12 previously infertile couples with 18 fertile couples pre- and post-birth. The sample was drawn from two private physician practices in Syracuse, New York from 1990-1991. Study groups were compared according to parity, martial status, planned pregnancy in the third trimester, and socioeconomic status. The majority of all study couples had middle-class occupations, incomes and lifestyles.

The study used primarily quantitative methods to measure reported group differences in (1) the level of transitional stress (personal, marital, and parental), (2) parental behaviors which affect the marital relationship and adaptation to the parental role, and (3) parental network structure and perceived social support. Both husband and wife completed questionnaires at two points in time: first, when the wife was in the third trimester of pregnancy; second, when the baby was 8 to 10 weeks old. The following instruments were administered: Demographic Questionnaire, Dyadic Adjustment Scale, State Anxiety Inventory, Personal Feelings Scale, Social Network Inventory, and either the Prenatal Self-Evaluation Questionnaire or Postpartum Self-Evaluation Questionnaire. In addition, separate interviews were held both pre- and post-birth with all husbands and wives in order to gather qualitative data which might facilitate interpretation of the quantitative results. The semi-structured tape-recorded interview focused on each subject's perspectives and expectations related to the pregnancy, the birth experience, changes in roles and relationships, and the baby. Previously infertile couples were given the opportunity to express their feelings concerning their infertility experience and its relationship to becoming parents for the first time.

Data analysis methods included Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance, Mann-Whitney U, and Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficients.

Results showed that fertile women reported greater personal and marital stress before and after the baby's birth than previously infertile women. A decline in personal stress post-birth was noted by both fertile and infertile women. Marital stress increased for both fertile and previously infertile women with a proportionately larger increase noted in fertile women. All fathers reported greater personal and marital stress than mothers. Few differences in adaptation to parental role were evidenced regardless of gender or fertility status. Support for parental role from family and friends was positively associated with satisfaction with parenthood and infant care.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.