Couples who expect the birth of a baby to bring them joy often are surprised to find themselves disenchanted as the added workload forces them into traditional male and female roles, researchers say.
"In most houses, the mother is doing almost all the work" taking care of the infant, even if she is employed, said Philip A. Cowan, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.The typical married couple with a new baby finds that being forced into traditional gender role brings loneliness and conflict as the ideal of male-female equality is overshadowed by the reality of child care, says a new book by Cowan and his wife, Carolyn Pape Cowan, a research psychologist.
Unless the parents set aside some time for each other - even 15 minutes daily - the stress of caring for a new baby can hurt not only the marriage but the child's academic and social development, the Cowans said.
The Cowans spent 10 years studying families to produce their book, "When Partners Become Parents: the Big Life Change for Couples." They also raised three children.
They found that 92 percent of couples experience increased conflict after the birth of a child.
"The most important source of stress, by far, is the lack of sharing by fathers in the daily tasks of raising the child and doing domestic chores," according to a UC-Berkeley statement summarizing the research.