Posted: 02.10.2014 | by AMRA

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Up to 90% of couples report a decline in relationship quality after becoming parents. Gambrel and Piercy [Journal of Marital and Family Therapy] developed a 4-week relationship enhancement intervention called the Mindful Transition to Parenthood Program (MTPP) for couples expecting their first child. MTPP offers skill-based relationship education within an abbreviated MBSR format to develop attunement, presence, perspective taking, and empathic responsiveness in couples.

To assess its effectiveness, 33 couples were randomly assigned to either MTPP or a wait-list control. MTPP men reported significant increases in mindfulness (as measured by the FFMQ) and relationship satisfaction, and a significant decrease in negative affect when compared with wait-list controls. Female partners showed no significant differences. Couples in this study reported unusually high baseline marital satisfaction, with the average couple reporting greater baseline satisfaction than even the happiest couples in prior research using the Couples Satisfaction Index. This limited the degree to which satisfaction could increase on the quantitative measures, and limits the ability to generalize the results to couples with lower marital satisfaction.

In an accompanying article, the same authors also performed a qualitative analysis of the themes that emerged in a post-intervention interview held with participants. MTPP women reported appreciating their partner’s participation and increased understanding of their pregnancy and connection to their baby. As they felt amply supported by female friends and family, they didn’t especially feel the need for MTPP group support. Men felt more connected to their baby, more identified with being fathers, and more understanding of their partners due to being in the program. As they felt little support or recognition from friends and family regarding impending fatherhood, they valued connecting with fathers-to-be in a program that appreciated the male perspective. Both men and women spoke of improvements in presence, acceptance, self-compassion, emotional reactivity, positive emotions, and effectiveness in interactions. Couples felt more deeply connected with their partners, reported improved perspective taking, communication, and conflict management, and thought the program had helped them feel more confident and accepting of the challenges of parenthood.

Reference:

Gambrel, L. E., & Piercy, F. P. (2014). Mindfulness-Based relationship education for couples expecting their first child part 2: Phenomenological findings. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi: 10.1111/jmft.12065 [PMID: 24443965]

[Link to abstract]