Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Relational Spirituality and Trajectories of Observed Emotional Intimacy During the Transition to Parenthood

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Alfred DeMaris (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kenneth Pargament (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)


Research regarding marital adjustment during the transition to parenthood has demonstrated that couples experience greater conflict, poorer conflict resolutions skills, and increases in other factors associated with negative communication patterns (e.g., Belsky, Lang, & Rovine, 1985; Belsky & Pensky, 1988; Belsky & Rovine, 1990; Belsky, Spanier, & Rovine, 1983). However, little is known about how new parents use more positive forms of communication during what can be a joyous yet trying transition. Using a sample of 164 married couples during the transition to parenthood, this study used longitudinal data to: 1) examine the trajectory of observed emotional intimacy skills during 10-minute videotaped interactions regarding vulnerable disclosures about becoming new parents and 2), to determine how spiritual variables regarding marriage (i.e. sanctification of marriage, spiritual intimacy, and spiritual one-upmanship) impact emotional intimacy over time. Using the multi-level dyadic discrepancy approach to growth curve modeling, it was determined that both husbands’ and wives’ observed emotional intimacy occurred in a curvilinear trajectory over the first year of parenthood. Additionally, there was a significant gender difference in that wives displayed more emotionally intimate behaviors than husbands. Furthermore, as expected higher reports of sanctification of marriage and spiritual intimacy predicted higher scores of observed emotional intimacy, but unexpectedly spiritual-one-upmanship did not correlate with emotional intimacy.