Expectant parents, please take note. You must address relationship anxiety before the first baby is born as researchers have revealed that a new child can spark feelings of jealousy in a person who already fears being abandoned by his or her partner.
The study, 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.
Study was published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
"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 Ohio State University in the US. The researchers also found that when either partner was jealous of the baby, couples experienced a decline in their satisfaction with their relationship after becoming parents.
For the findings, the research team used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study co-led by Schoppe-Sullivan that is investigating how dual-earner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time. In all, 182 couples, most of whom were married, participated in this study. During the third trimester of pregnancy, mothers and fathers completed a variety of questionnaires, including one that examined "attachment anxiety."
Reason may be that spouses of anxious partners
According to the research, 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. They reported how much they agreed with statements like "I resent it when my spouse/partner is more affectionate with our baby than s/he is with me."
As they predicted, the researchers found that people with relationship anxiety before the child's birth were more jealous of the child three months after arrival. But it wasn't just the anxious partner who felt jealous of the baby - even their spouses felt higher levels of jealousy, they added.
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, the study 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," Schoppe-Sullivan 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. But that's not what they found. According to the study, anxious moms and dads were equally likely to be jealous of the time their partners spent with the new baby.