From a family systems theoretical view, this paper uses both variable-oriented and person-oriented research approaches to examine parental marriage as a dynamic, interdependent system, and extends the literature by examining parental marriage across a 15 year time span. Employing latent growth curve analysis of 490 mother-father dyads from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, this study considers multiple aspects of the relationship husbands and wives have together as spouses (emotional intimacy), parents (ideas about discipline and a child-centered vs. adult-centered orientation to childrearing), coparents (agreement regarding parenting beliefs and discipline), and household managers (agreement on the division of household and childcare tasks), exploring these associations from one month post-partum to when the child is 15 years old. Second, using latent class growth analysis, this study explores how these factors come together in different relationship classes to form distinct typologies of change for these stably partnered parents. In general mothers and fathers show similar trends in emotional intimacy over time—with decline during the early years after child birth followed by a modest increase through first grade and then relative stabilization until age 15. They also report similar levels of authoritative discipline strategies and adult-centered parenting beliefs. On average mothers are responsible for approximately twice the amount of family work than are fathers. The latent class growth analysis revealed four distinct classes. The most significant differences between classes were in level of emotional intimacy and family work responsibility. Balancing of the instrumental and relational aspects of family life is posited as an explanation of between class differences.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





marriage, parenting, coparenting, typologies