What is the Role of Hope as Couples Transition to Parenthood?

Hope as a Shared Dyadic Resource in the Transition to Parenthood

  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Nursing/Medicine

Principal Investigators

Eshkol Rafaeli
Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Training
Psychology Department and Gonda Neuroscience Center, Bar-Ilan University


Hope has typically been considered to be a salutary individual characteristic, and considerable evidence links it with measures of psychological and physical well-being. Little is known about how hope functions in a relational context - in particular, within committed romantic relationships, which are of central importance in adulthood. The proposed study aims to explore the question of how hope might serve as a shared dyadic resource, beyond its role as an individual characteristic. It will do so within the context of a major relational milestone that occurs in the lives of many couples – the transition to parenthood.

The transition to parenthood brings with it a great sense of meaning and joy, , alongside considerable difficulties for couples, which range from relatively circumscribed distress to full-blown psychopathology, particularly post-partum depression, which may influence both partners, as well as their relationship and often their offspring.

Importantly, couples differ in the degree to which they undergo this transition with difficulty. In this proposed project, we plan to explore the factor of hope as both an individual and a shared dyadic resource that aids couples in their transition to parenthood. We propose that hopeful couples will have greater resources to fulfill their pre-birth expectations and to adjust those when inevitable difficulties occur after the birth of the child. Indeed, we expect hope to be a strong predictor of couples’ ability to avoid the major costs that often occur at this critical juncture, and to reap its potential rewards instead.

By focusing on the phenomenon of dyadic hope in this context, we wish to answer several questions: Is hope contagious within relationships? Alternatively, is there a trade-off over hope? Will women’s and men’s hope diverge, especially surrounding critical points such as childbirth? What explains the effects of hope on one’s own, and on one’s partner’s, well-being? And can one partner’s hope suffice for the couple’s marital adjustment?

Fifty couples in the transition to parenthood will take part in a longitudinal study involving three components:(a) Pre-partum self-report and partner-report questionnaires; (b) daily questionnaires administered online for 21 days staring 15 weeks after birth; (c) longitudinal follow-up questionnaires completed 6 month after birth.

Several expectations guide our work. First, we expect both one’s own hope and one’s partner’s hope to predict better adjustment to the transition to parenthood. Second, we expect hope to exert these salubrious effects through several mediators (including better dyadic support, more adaptive coparenting, and realistic expectations which stand a better chance of being fulfilled). Third, we expect to find a compensatory pattern, with one partner’s hope compensating for another’s lower hope. Fourth, we expect hope to be contagious within couples – with one partner’s hope predicting subsequent hope for the other.

The proposed project will expand our understanding of hope as a dyadic resource; of its measurement in individuals and couples; and of the roles that individual and dyadic hope (alongside the related constructs of optimism and expectations) play in the emotional and mental health of couples undergoing this major life transition.