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Family Files

Facts for All Ages

Couple Relationships and Parenting


It seems that lately, my Facebook feed is just blowing up with pictures of babies! I currently have many friends, family and colleagues that are having babies – and I am so excited for them and this amazing time in their lives. This has inspired me to do a little digging in my files and to share this information that was published in a past Strengthening Families fact sheet.

For decades research has focused on the relationship between the mother and child as vital to parenting. In the 1980's, research began to recognize the importance of the father and child relationship to parenting. Not until the 1990's did research begin to acknowledge the role of the couple relationship in parenting. The overall results of research studies have found that children on average do best in stable, low-conflict married families. This held true across every population group studied. There is a close connection between the couple relationship, their co-parenting, and the child outcomes. Improving the quality of the couple relationship is believed to not only benefit the couple, but also the parent and child relationships and the child's development. Couples who are satisfied in their relationship with each other are more likely to work together and reach agreement in expectations for their children. This provides consistency, security, and stability for the children, which in turn, promotes competence and maturity. Children learn about love and attachment in a warm positive environment and parents provide a role model for children to form positive attitudes toward intimate relationships and long-term stability.

Six Components Found to Strengthen a Couple Relationship:

  1. Dating. Going on a date doesn't have to be expensive—gazing at the stars on the porch, a walk in the moonlight, or a cup of coffee together can start important reconnecting routines. Don't allow talk of problems, children or work during this time. This helps you focus and build on the strengths in your relationship.
  1. Listening with the Heart. Everyone wants to feel understood by the person they care about most. Really listen with a heart to understand. This lets your partner know his or her thoughts are your priority. Repeat or ask questions to make sure you understand.
  1. Passion. Make time for sexual intimacy and closeness. This sets the relationship apart from all others and keeps it aglow.
  1. Family Rituals. From how we greet one another daily to annual celebrations, rituals provide a basis of couple and family identity.
  1. Fun Activities. Fun experiences and memories with the ones you love helps you keep everyday stresses in perspective. Plan activities where you can talk rather than ones where you are passive.
  1. Resolving Conflict. All relationships face conflict. We can build walls or we can learn to confront differences, forgive, and seek forgiveness of each other.
Parents who devote time developing a strong marriage relationship will not only be helping themselves but their entire family. For more information on parenting and relationships, contact a University of Illinois Extension family life educator at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/staff.cfm?ExtTeamID=6

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