Transition to Parenthood Project

Overview of our Relational Spirituality and Transition to Parenthood Study

  • To increase scientific knowledge about faith and family life, we conducted a pioneering study of the role of relational spirituality in the transition to parenthood funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Our website highlights our findings from the 164 couples who participated, starting when they were pregnant and ending when their baby was one year old. We visited the families in their homes. We learned about these families by using questionnaires and interviews, and videotaping several family interactions (marital, mother-infant, father-infant, and mother-father-child interactions).
  • Our major goal was to learn how specific spiritual beliefs and practices focused on family life may impact marriage or parenting, for better or worse.

For Better - Can Relational Spirituality Help Family Relationships? 

  • Yes, some specific forms of relational spirituality can be a resource. We use the term “For better” in this website to refer to specific spiritual beliefs or behaviors focused on family life that tend to help family relationships. We have created individual web pages on research being done to uncover helpful spiritual resources for family life. Click on Marriage/Couples,SexualityParenting, and Divorce for examples within each domain of family life. For two spiritual resources that we examined in our transition to parenthood study, clickSanctification of Marriage and Spirituality Intimacy.

For Worse - Can Relational Spirituality Harm Family Relationships?

  • Yes, some specific forms of relational spirituality can be a problem. We use the term “For worse” in this website to refer to specific spiritual beliefs or behaviors focused on family life that tend to harm family relationships. We have created individual web pages on research being done to uncover harmful spiritual processes. Click on Marriage/CouplesSexuality,Parenting, and Divorce for examples within each domain of family life. For two spiritual problems that we examined in our transition to parenthood study, click Spiritual One-upmanship and Spiritual Struggles in Coping with Pregnancy Stress.

FAQ about our participants?

  • Who were the married couples in the study?   
    • These were heterosexual couples from northwest Ohio. They came from a mix of rural, suburban, and urban communities. They were demographically similar to other married heterosexual couples across the U.S. in "traditional families" where neither spouse had a child from a previous relationship and the couple married before the baby was born.  For example, as a group, our couples were very similar to other American married couples having their first child together in terms of the wives' and husbands' level of education, and the couples' household income.
  • Were these couples highly religious?  
    • No. They attended religious services about as often as other married U.S. couples with children. So, they were not highly religiously compared to other married couples in the US with young children.
  • How did you find these couples? 
    • 64% via childbirth classes announcements, 15% via word of mouth referrals, 14% via ads in public locations or newspapers, 8% via flyers sent by mail