The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist

Articles

Age and Gender Differences in Relationship and Psychological Adjustment to Parenthood in Couples Conceiving Through In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

Peggy Bracks-Zallouaa1 c1, Frances Gibsona2 and Catherine McMahona3

a1 Registered Psychologist, Sydney, Australia. peggybracks@hotmail.com

a2 Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University, Australia.

a3 Psychology Department, Macquarie University, Australia.

Abstract

Fifteen per cent of Australian couples now experience fertility problems and many turn to assisted reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to conceive their child. This study investigated gender differences in relationship satisfaction during the transition to parenthood, and the effects of gender and age on relationship and psychological adjustment at six–nine months postpartum, in a sample of IVF conceiving couples initially recruited from a private fertility treatment clinic in Sydney. The results revealed different patterns of adjustment for mothers and fathers, whereby mothers showed a significant decline in relationship satisfaction from pregnancy to early parenthood while fathers did not. However, fathers exhibited more consistent relationship concern than mothers in both pregnancy and parenthood, and also reported greater parenting stress related to interaction with their child. There were negligible differences between older and younger parents, suggesting comparable adjustment across age groups. While the outcomes of this research do not indicate problematic adjustment, for those professionals who might be working with families conceiving through IVF they do highlight some specific adjustment issues for mothers and fathers during the postpartum period.

Keywords

  • adjustment to parenthood;
  • IVF;
  • gender and age differences;
  • fathers

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Peggy Bracks-Zalloua, 1/12 Albi Place, Randwick NSW 2031, Australia.