It is important to have a positive parental teamwork, as it is key to promote healthy child development. But if mothers have stronger opinions than fathers about how to tend to their newborn in the middle of the night, then co-parenting relationship suffers, says a study.
Researchers from Penn State asked mothers and fathers how they felt about responding to night wakings — for example, whether they should attend to their crying infant right away or let him or her self-soothe — and their perceptions about their co-parenting.
They found that when mothers had stronger beliefs than the fathers, the mothers also reported feeling worse about their co-parenting relationships. Lead researcher Jonathan Reader said the study was an important step in learning more about parents and how they work together to promote child well-being and bedtime.
]“Setting limits about how to respond to night wakings is stressful and if there are discrepancies in how mothers and fathers feel they should respond that can reduce the quality of that coparenting relationship,” Reader added. They also found that for mothers in particular, they perceived co-parenting as worse when they had stronger beliefs than the father.
The participants — 167 mothers and 155 fathers — answered questions about how they feel they should respond to night wakings, for example, “My child will feel abandoned if I don’t respond immediately to his/her cries at night,” when the baby was one, three, six, nine and 12 months old.
At the same time, the participants also answered questions about co-parenting, for example, “My partner and I have the same goals for our child,” and if they were experiencing depressive or anxiety symptoms. The results revealed that mothers generally had stronger beliefs about how to respond to night waking than fathers, although both parents started to become less concerned about how to set limits as the babies got older. But when mothers had stronger beliefs, their perceptions of co-parenting went down.
“During the study, we saw that in general mothers were much more active at night with the baby than the fathers were,” Reader said. The results are published in the Journal of Family Psychology.