Communication Processes of Dual-Career Couples in the Transition to Parenthood

Date of Graduation

Spring 1995


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Charlene Berquist


The birth of the first child is a unique phenomenon. Dual-career couples, who lack role models, may rely on spousal communication to a great extent to define and negotiate roles. The purpose of this study was to examine how communication influences role development and expectations for parenthood and to explore the role of communication in dual-career couples' transition to parenthood. Eight dual-career couples from a medium-sized Midwestern city were interviewed individually and asked to complete diary entries for two weeks. Based on participants' responses, the most significant finding was that individuals spend very little time communicating directly with their spouses about roles and expectations. Direct communication was replaced by using families of origin and peers as parenting role models. Lack of communication led spouses to incongruent perceptions about role models. Lack of communication led spouses to incongruent perceptions about roles, appropriate parenting behaviors and maternal work preferences. Implications of these findings suggest that dual-career couples may assume traditional parental roles in the absence of more well-defined roles for dual-career couples, resulting in a difficult adjustment to parenthood. Husbands, in particular, may face more ambiguous expectations for themselves and their spouses because few positive dual-career role models exist for men to emulate.

Subject Categories



© Melinda E Arnold