Dyad to triad: A longitudinal analysis of humor and pregnancy intention during the transition to parenthood

Jaclyn C. Theisen, Brian G. Ogolsky, Jeffry A. Simpson, W. Steven Rholes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transition to parenthood is a stressful life event that often leads to decreases in relationship satisfaction over time. Guided by the Stress Buffering Model, we examined how pregnancy intention and humor use are associated with relationship satisfaction across the transition to parenthood using a multi-wave longitudinal design. First-time parents were initially assessed prenatally and then every 6-month postpartum for 2 years. Six months after birth, each couple was video-recorded engaging in two support discussions where each partner’s use of different humor styles was observed and rated. The results revealed a positive association between affiliative humor use (assessed at 6-month postpartum) and relationship satisfaction (assessed across the entire transition) for men and women. For men only, there was an interaction between pregnancy intention (assessed prenatally) and aggressive humor use (assessed 6-month postpartum). Specifically, when the pregnancy was unplanned, men who displayed higher levels of aggressive humor at 6-month postpartum reported higher overall relationship satisfaction. There also was a significant interaction between men’s (but not women’s) affiliative humor use and pregnancy intention, such that when men reported an unplanned pregnancy, their greater use of affiliative humor buffered declines in their relationship satisfaction. These findings suggest that, for men, greater use of affiliative humor appears to forestall declines in their relationship satisfaction. More broadly, different forms of humor may promote or sustain higher levels of relationship satisfaction in men across the chronically stressful transition to parenthood because they serve key communicative functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3611-3630
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Dyadic data analysis
  • humor
  • pregnancy intention
  • relationship satisfaction
  • trajectories
  • transition to parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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