Ohio: In spouses who are insecure and anxious, a new child can spark feelings of jealousy and fears of being abandoned by their partners, suggests a study. The new study found that partners who showed signs of relationship anxiety before the birth of their first child were more likely to be jealous of the child after it was born. "You might think, who could be jealous of a baby? But if you already have fears of rejection, it may be scary to see how much attention your partner showers on your new child," said the lead researcher Anna Olsavsky, a doctoral student in human sciences at The Ohio State University. This jealousy can make an already difficult period for couples' relationships even more stressful.
The study found that when either partner was jealous of the baby, couples experienced a decline in their satisfaction with their relationship after becoming parents. "This jealousy can erode a couple's relationship," co-author Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of psychology at Ohio State, said. "There has been a lot of research that shows couples' satisfaction with their relationship goes down after the birth of a baby, and this could be part of the reason for some people," said Schoppe-Sullivan. But it wasn't just the anxious partner who felt jealous of the baby -- even their spouses felt higher levels of jealousy.
The reason may be that spouses of anxious partners are used to receiving a lot of attention from their partner, and that responsiveness may lessen when the baby arrives. The researchers went into the study believing that anxious fathers may be most vulnerable to feeling jealousy of the new child because dads tend to spend less time with infants than moms do, Olsavsky said.
But that's not what they found. Anxious moms and dads were equally likely to be jealous of the time their partners spent with the new baby. The results suggest that expectant parents should be aware of their relationship style before their first baby is born.
"There are a lot of programs for expectant parents, and attachment anxiety might be a good thing to assess beforehand," Olsavsky said. "If you make people aware of their relationship patterns, it may help them deal with the feelings more constructively," Olsavsky added.