When couples bicker around the time of a child’s birth, the effects can be long-lasting. A study from the University of Oregon found that aggression between partners when a child is born dictates how the mother will parent for the next three years. The study involves 400 moms in high-risk family environments, based in part on socioeconomic status.
The researchers found that aggression such as slamming doors, name-calling and arguing as well as physical abuse between partners was linked to a mother who used harsh parenting later. Even when researchers controlled for factors like mothers’ depression and a history of abuse, they found that partner aggression still strongly predicted harsh parenting techniques in moms three years down the road. Harsh parenting, in turn, related to behavior problems in the children.
While similar studies have found that these environments can be damaging to children, this is one of the first studies to examine the effect on babies. The researchers want to look into whether partner aggression affects how mothers see their babies or if the babies show signs of processing the negative environment, such as noticing angry tones of voice.