Cherishing the Parents during Transition to Parenthood

D. Wang

The transition to parenthood is a normal family process and one of the stressful life events over the life span. Research indicates that the quality of the couple relationship is a key contributor to the adjustment to parenthood, especially for first-time parents (e.g., Cowan & Cowan, 2000; Parfitt & Ayers, 2014).  The bond between a couple as romantic partners needs to expand and make room to include the child.  Becoming parents involves major adjustments, which can bring up attachment fears and insecurities, when partners have greater needs for connection and reassurance.

This presentation will share the findings of my PhD dissertation research on “Hold Me Tight ®: An Attachment-Informed Relationship Enhancement Program for Couples Becoming Parents” with 12 expectant couples. Participants will learn 1) How Hold Me Tight ® Program fosters first-time parents’ confidence in building healthy relationships for themselves and with their babies, even if they had no models of this growing up; 2) Through participants’ narratives, supported by quantitative data, the trend in participants’ EPDS depression scores (including the Anxiety Subscale), attachment tendencies, and attachment behaviours in men and women; 3) How the program has a positive impact on male partners’ reduced attachment avoidance and increased view of their partner’s A.R.E. (Accessibility, Responsiveness, Emotional Engagement) behaviours towards them.  Together we will explore ways to incorporate attachment-informed couple relationship education into prenatal education to help expectant couples build secure attachment for optimal mental health and family functioning, to aid a smoother transition in partnering and parenting.