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Cowans Share Findings of Parenting Research

Psychologists to Discuss Making Transition from Married Couple to Parents

By Kap Stann, UC Berkeley Extension
Posted January 26, 2000

When their children were young, Philip and Carolyn Cowan watched their own marriage go through a variety of changes. They saw couples around them struggling with the demands of becoming a family too. Some separated or divorced under the strain.

Because they're both professional psychologists, the Cowans wanted to see what research had to say on this subject, but they found next to nothing about couples making the transition from couplehood to parenthood. Together they decided to launch a longitudinal study of 100 Bay Area couples who were pregnant or considering having children and to follow them through their first critical years as a family.

"What we found was that when parents have a satisfying relationship as a couple, they tend to be more responsive and effective as parents," said Philip Cowan, psychology professor and director of the Institute for Human Development. "As a result, their children demonstrate greater academic competence, build more successful relationships with other children and exhibit fewer behavior problems at school."

Explains Carolyn Cowan, adjunct professor of psychology, "When people think about how children are raised, they most often think only about parenting. But what we're saying is that what goes on between the parents is a big part of the children's environment, so it's important to see what goes on there as well."

Their findings were published in 1992 in their acclaimed book "When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples," which went out of print after being published in five languages. This month, the book has been re-released by Erlbaum Publishing with updated additions. The Cowans will discuss their book and their research at a UC Berkeley Extension public program next month.

"How Couple Relationships Affect Children's Development" will take place 4-6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 10, at UC Berkeley Extension International Center, 2222 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley. Admission is $10 for the public; free to current and past enrollees in Extension's Changing Family Program and members of the Social Welfare and California Alumni Associations. To register in advance, call (510) 642-4111 or register online at Registration will also be available at the door.

The two-hour presentation covers the Cowans' earlier study of couples making the transition



January 26 - February 1, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 19)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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