Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Becoming a parent is a significant event in the adult developmental cycle. Researchers agree that all couples experience at least some form of stress during this transition. The present study investigated the role that self-complexity plays in a couple’s adjustment to becoming first-time parents. Self-complexity, which is defined as the number of roles or activities that an individual uses to describe himself or herself, was previously found to buffer the impact of stressful events among college students (Linville, 1987). Block (1961), however, found that individuals with higher levels of self-complexity were more maladjusted. The main purposes of this study were to examine whether or not self-complexity does play a role in a couple’s adaptation to parenthood and, if it does, to examine the direction of this relationship. Forty-nine couples were interviewed during the third trimester of pregnancy and again when their babies were 6 months old. In addition, couples completed a number of self-report measures which assessed adjustment (e. g., stress and depression). Results showed that self-complexity did play a significant role in the changes that couples experienced from the prenatal to the postnatal phase. Contrary to what a stress-buffering model would predict, higher self-complexity, at high stress levels, was related to greater depression. Consistent with the Baruch et al. theory (1987) of multiple roles, it appeared that couples who reported having several self-aspects and indicated higher stress levels had greater difficulty adjusting to parenthood. The differences between these findings and Linville’s (l987) may be attributable to the nature of the two samples.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season