Years of research point to strain kids put on relationships

Sharon Jayson
USA Today

Sleep-deprived new parents snapping at each other isn’t exactly new comedy fodder, but there’s a twist on the relationship-havoc that babies cause in the new movie Friends with Kids that makes it clear you don’t have to be married for a child to strain your relationships.

More than 25 separate studies in the past two decades find that marital quality takes a dive with a baby’s birth: babies raise stress, reduce happiness and otherwise upset the household, experts say. The movie, out Friday, points to that in a tagline: “Love. Happiness. Kids. Pick two.”

“Kids do lower marital satisfaction and there’s not much we seem to be able to do to prevent it,” says Brian Doss, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. He is among researchers whose intervention studies haven’t succeeded in stopping sharp declines in relationship satisfaction. “The fact that we’ve been largely unsuccessful may suggest it’s a really difficult and tough experience and it’s not necessarily a deficit in these couples’ relationships or how they’re approaching it.”

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