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First baby can spark jealousy among anxious partners: Study

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.

By: Press Trust of India | Published: March 5, 2020 6:30:32 pm
babies, new babies, new parents, jealousy, relationship anxiety, anxiety, relationship anxiety in new parents, study, parenting, indian express, indian express news This jealousy can make an already difficult period for couples’ relationships even more stressful, the researchers said. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

The first child can spark feelings of jealousy in people who already fear being abandoned by their partner, according to a study.

The research, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 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 study lead author Anna Olsavsky, from The Ohio State University in the US.

This jealousy can make an already difficult period for couples’ relationships even more stressful, the researchers said.

They found that when either partner was jealous of the baby, couples experienced a decline in their satisfaction with their relationship after becoming parents.

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“This jealousy can erode a couple’s relationship,” said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor at Ohio State University.

The researchers used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study investigating how dual-earner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time.

As many as 182 couples, most of whom were married, participated in the study.

During the third trimester of pregnancy, mothers and fathers completed a variety of questionnaires, including one that examined “attachment anxiety.”

babies, new babies, new parents, jealousy, relationship anxiety, anxiety, relationship anxiety in new parents, study, parenting, indian express, indian express news 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. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

They were asked how much they agreed with statements like “I’m afraid that I will lose my partner’s love” and “I worry about being abandoned.”

Three months after their baby was born, the couples completed a measure of jealousy of the partner-infant relationship, the researchers said. They found that people with relationship anxiety before the child’s birth were more jealous of the child three months after arrival.

However, it wasn’t just the anxious partners 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.

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“There may be two things happening to the spouses of people with relationship anxiety,” Schoppe-Sullivan said. “It is not just that you aren’t receiving all the attention that you used to receive, but also that the child is receiving that extra devotion that once was given to you,” she said.

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.

However, they found that anxious moms and dads were equally likely to be jealous of the time their partners spent with the new baby.

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