New Fathers’ Perceptions of Dyadic Adjustment: The Roles of Maternal Gatekeeping and Coparenting Closeness

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Family Process






Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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Although the association between maternal gatekeeping and relationship functioning has been explored by a few studies, none of these have focused on fathers’ perceptions of these constructs. Given that today's new fathers are challenged by elevated expectations for active parenting and coparenting even as most new mothers remain primary caregivers of infant children, this is a critical omission. This study examined the associations between new fathers’ perceptions of maternal gatekeeping and change in dyadic adjustment as mediated through coparenting closeness. Maternal gatekeeping was reported by 182 fathers at 3 months postpartum, coparenting closeness was reported at 3 and 6 months postpartum, and dyadic adjustment was reported during the third trimester of pregnancy and at 9 months postpartum. Fathers’ perceptions of relative change in coparenting closeness from 3 to 6 months mediated associations between fathers’ perceptions of maternal gatekeeping at 3 months and relative change in dyadic adjustment from the third trimester to 9 months postpartum. In particular, findings indicate that greater perceived maternal gate opening was associated with higher levels of dyadic adjustment through higher levels of coparenting closeness, whereas greater perceived maternal gate closing was associated with lower levels of dyadic adjustment through lower levels of coparenting closeness. This study highlights the importance of studying fathers in the context of the family system and the role of the coparenting relationship at the transition to parenthood in couple relationship functioning.

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