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Relationship risk factors identified
It’s hoped that the research, which was conducted by scientists at the University of Queensland, can help at-risk couples take steps to prevent their relationships from breaking down. The key, according to researcher Dr Jemima Petch, who is also director of Relationships Australia Queensland, is to screen couples before they have their first child.
“First-time parenting can be very stressful,” she says. “It is a significant transition but with the right support we can assist people to protect their relationships,” she says. “When the couple relationship is working really well, this helps each parent to have the energy and time to parent sensitively, and develop that special bond with their child.”
The study pinpointed eight risk factors indicating relationship distress.”We found that the greater number of risk factors a couple had, the more likely they were to report a decline in their relationship satisfaction across the first two and a half years of parenthood,” says Petch.
Whilst income was a key factor, Petch also identified educational status, whether one or both parents come from a broken home, history of psychological issues such as depression, and whether the couple were married or living in a de facto relationship as potential issues.
The research, which was presented at the recent Australian Psychological Society conference, highlighted three key signs to look out for:
1. A feeling of disconnect
“Most couples who come into therapy report feeling detached, distant and out of love with their partner,” Petch says. “It’s important to continue to make time to be a couple.”
2. Leaving arguments unresolved
According to Petch, most couples argue – indeed it can be healthy – but if neither partners wants to resolve the fight and return to a feeling of closeness, it can indicate a deeper problem. “It’s not the amount of arguments, it’s how a couple gets over it,” Petch says.
3. Growing resentment
A common relationship issue for new parents, Petch says any feeling of resentment between a couple can be knocked on the head easily, simply by communicating and understanding how the other parent is feeling. “Most couples will experience times when their relationship is stressed after having a baby,” Petch says.
What about you? Did your break up come out of the blue or did you spot any warning signs? Did you have any of the risk factors identified here?
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