Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Stephenson, J. 2019. Interparental Control During Pregnancy Predicts Parental Control Directed Toward Infants. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Jaime Stephenson 2019.


Numerous studies have found that the quality of the intimate relationship between parents significantly impacts the quality of the parent-child relationship which, in turn, has important implications for child psychosocial adjustment. Research calls to Enfger’s spillover hypothesis suggesting that discord or dysfunction in one family relationship (e.g., the interparental relationship) puts other family relationships (e.g., parent-child relationships) at increased risk for dysfunction. Examining the association between interparental respect and control dynamics during pregnancy and the parent-child relationship when the child is 1 year of age is important because (a) children’s social and moral adjustment is in a critical stage of development and (b) functioning in the interparental relationship during pregnancy is expected to “set the stage” for functioning in the developing parent-child relationship during this period. This aim of this study was to examine in 19 parents whether the quality of respect and control dynamics in interparental relationships during pregnancy explained, in part, control that begins to develop in parent-child relationships during the first year of childhood. Semi-structured interviews during pregnancy to understand control dynamics, followed by behavioral observations with their child one year post-partum were used to examine the associations. Few correlations were statistically significant, however, it is expected the study was underpowered due to the small sample size (N=19). This study highlights the importance of programs aimed to identify and intervene with couples facing dysfunction during pregnancy. Additional research is needed to better understand the association between control dynamics during pregnancy and the parent-child relationship.