Infertility and relational satisfaction: A comparative study of dyads according to the reproductive stage

Soraia Andrade, Mariana Veloso Martins


Going through the experience of infertility has been shown to be both beneficial and detrimental to the couple relationship. This divergent evidence can be attributed to the lack of adequate control groups and not using the dyad as the unit of analysis. This study addresses these gaps by analyzing the differences in 358 couples regarding relational satisfaction and its dyadic consensus. We used multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVAs) to test the effect of experiencing infertility in relational satisfaction and its dyadic consensus, which were assessed through the Perceived Relationship Quality Components Inventory. Female and male age, relationship length, and the partner relationship satisfaction were assessed as covariates. Results revealed no significant differences of female and male relational satisfaction and its dyadic consensus between groups, even after introducing covariates. By using the couple as the unit of analysis and differentiating between the experience of parenthood and infertility, our results suggest that there are no differences between the various reproductive stages in the way men and women perceive their relationship, and the way they agree on their satisfaction levels. Future studies assessing developmental trajectories of couples are needed to ascertain causality.


Infertility, Relational satisfaction, Dyadic consensus, Transition to parenthood.


Adamsons, K. (2013). Predictors of relationship quality during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 31, 160-171. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2013.791919

Allemand, M., Zimprich, D., & Hendricks, A. A. J. (2008). Age differences in five personality domains across the life span. Developmental Psychology, 44, 758-770. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.758

Bahrainian, S. A., Nazemi, F., & Dadkhah, A. (2009). The comparison of marital satisfaction between fertile and infertile women. Iranian Rehabilitation Journal, 7, 11-16.

Boivin, J., Bunting, L., Collins, J. A., & Nygren, K. G. (2007). International estimates of infertility prevalence and treatment-seeking: Potential need and demand for infertility medical care. Human Reproduction, 22, 1506-1512. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dem046

Brage Hudson, D., Elek, S. M., & Fleck, M. O. (2001). First-time mothers’ and fathers’ transition to parenthood: Infant care self-efficacy, parenting satisfaction, and infant sex. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 24, 31-43.

Carvalho, J. L., & Santos, A. (2009). Estudo Afrodite: Caracterização da infertilidade em Portugal. Recuperado de

Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (2003). Normative family transitions, normal family processes, and healthy child development. In F. Walsh (Ed.), Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (3rd ed., pp. 424-459). New York: The Guilford Press.

Crespo, C. (2007). Rituais familiares e o casal: Paisagens inter-sistémicas. Dissertação de Doutoramento, Faculdade de Psicologia e de Ciências da Educação da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal.

Crespo, C., Davide, I. N., Costa, M. E., & Fletcher, G. J. (2008). Family rituals in married couples: Links with attachment, relationship quality, and closeness. Personal Relationships, 15, 191-203.

Elek, S. M., Brage Hudson, D., & Bouffard, C. (2003). Marital and parenting satisfaction and infant care self-efficacy during the transition to parenthood: The effect of infant sex. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 26, 45-57. doi: 10.1080/01460860390183065

Fletcher, G., Simpson, J., & Thomas, G. (2000). The measurement of perceived relationship quality components: A confirmatory factor analytic approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 340-354. doi: 10.1177/0146167200265007

Gameiro, S., Nazaré, B., Fonseca, A., Moura-Ramos, M., & Canavarro, M. C. (2011). Changes in marital congruence and quality of life across the transition to parenthood in couples who conceived spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technologies. Mental Health, Sexuality, and Ethics, 96, 1457-1462. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.09.003

Gattis, K. S., Berns, S., Simpson, L. E., & Christensen, A. (2004). Birds of a feather or strange birds? Ties among personality dimensions, similarity, and marital quality. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 564-574. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.4.564

Goldberg, A. E., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2004). Division of labor and working-class women’s well-being across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 225-236. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.1.225

Goldin, C. (2006). The quiet revolution that transformed women’s employment, education, and family. The American Economic Review, 96, 1-21.

Gorchoff, S. M., John, O. P., & Helson, R. (2008). Contextualizing change in marital satisfaction during middle age: An 18-year longitudinal study. Psychological Science, 19, 1194-1200.

Graham, J., Diebels, K., & Barnow, B. (2011). The reliability of relationship satisfaction: A reliability generalization meta-analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 39-48. doi: 10.1037/a0022441

Greil, A. L., McQuillan, J., Shreffler, K. M., Johnson, K. M., & Slauson-Blevins, K. S. (2011). Race-ethnicity and medical services for infertility: Stratified reproduction in a population-based sample of U.S. women. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 1-17. doi: 10.1177/0022146511418236

Hammarberg, K., Astbury, J., & Baker, H. W. (2001). Women’s experience of IVF: A follow-up study. Human Reproduction, 16, 374-383. doi: 10.1093/humrep/16.2.374

Harwood, K., McLean, N., & Durkin, K. (2007). First-time mothers’ expectations of parenthood: What happens when optimistic expectations are not matched by later experiences?. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1-12. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.1.1

Hendrick, S. (1988). A generic measure of relationship satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 50, 93-98.

Hjelmstedt, A., Widström, A. M., Wramsby, H., & Collins, A. (2004). Emotional adaptation following successful in vitro fertilization. Fertility and Sterility, 81, 1254-1264. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2003.09.061

Holter, H., Anderheim, L., Bergh, C., & Möller, A. (2006). First IVF treatment: Short-term impact on psychological well-being and the marital relationship. Human Reproduction, 21, 3295-3302. doi: 10.1093/humrep/del288

Kenny, D., & Cook, W. (2005). The actor-partner interdependence model: A model of bidirectional effects in developmental studies. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 101-109. doi: 10.1080/01650250444000405

Lawrence, E., Nylen, K., & Cobb, R. J. (2007). Prenatal expectations and marital satisfaction over the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 41-50. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.21.2.155

Lee, T. Y., & Sun, G. H. (2000). Psychosocial response of Chinese infertile husbands and wives. Archives of Andrology, 45, 143-148.

Martins, M. V., Basto-Pereira, M., Pedro, J., Peterson, B., Almeida, V., Schmidt, L., & Costa, M. E. (2016). Male psychological adaptation to unsuccessful medically assisted reproduction treatments: A systematic review. Human Reproduction Update, 22, 466-478.

McGoldrick, M. (1995). As mulheres e o ciclo de vida familiar. In M. McGoldrick & B. Carter (Eds.), As mudanças do ciclo de vida familiar (pp. 30-61). Porto Alegre: Artmed.

McGoldrick, M., & Carter, B. (2003). The family life cycle. In F. Walsh (Ed.), Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (3rd ed., pp. 375-398). New York: The Guilford Press.

Moller, K., Hwang, C. P., & Wikberg, B. (2008). Couple relationship and transition to parenthood: Does workload at home matter?. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 26, 57-68. doi: 10.1080/02646830701355782

Monga, M., Alexandrescu, B., Katz, S. E., Stein, M., & Ganiats, T. (2004). Impact of infertility on quality of life, marital adjustment, and sexual function. Urology, 63, 126-130.

Mroczek, D., & Spiro, A. (2005). Change in life satisfaction during adulthood: Findings from the veterans affairs normative aging study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 189-202. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.1.189

Newton, T., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (1995). Hostility and erosion of marital quality during early marriage. Journal Behavior Medicine, 18, 601-619.

Perren, S., von Wyl, A., Bürgin, D., Simoni, H., & von Klitzing, K. (2005). Depressive symptoms and psychosocial stress across the transition to parenthood: Associations with parental psychopathology and child difficulty. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 26, 173-183.

Peterson, B. D., Newton, C. R., & Rosen, K. H. (2003). Examining congruence between partners’ perceived infertility-related stress and its relationship to marital adjustment and depression in infertile couples. Family Process, 42, 59-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2003.00059.x

Reed, S. A. (2001). Medical and psychological aspects of infertility and assisted reproductive technology for the primary care provider. Military Medicine, 166, 1018-1022.

Repokari, L., Punamäki, R. L., Unkila-Kallio, L., Vilska, S., Poikkeus, P., Sinkkonen, J., . . . Tulppala, M. (2007). Infertility treatment and marital relationships: A 1-year prospective study among successfully treated ART couples and their controls. Human Reproduction, 22, 1481-1491. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dem013

Salvatore, P., Gariboldi, S., Offidani, A., Coppola, F., Amore, M., & Maggini, C. (2001). Psychopathology, personality, and marital relationship in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization procedures. Fertility and Sterility, 75, 54-62.

Schmidt, L. (2006). Psychosocial burden of infertility and assisted reproduction. The Lancet, 367, 9508, 379-380. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68117-8

Schmidt, L., Holstein, B., Christensen, U., & Boivin, J. (2005). Does infertility cause marital benefit? An epidemiological study of 2250 women and men in fertility treatment. Patient Education and Counseling, 59, 244-251. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.07.015

Schulz, M., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2006). Promoting healthy beginnings: A randomized controlled trial of a preventive intervention to preserve marital quality during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 74, 20-31. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.1.20

Sobotka, T. (2010). Shifting parenthood to advanced reproductive ages: Trends, causes and consequences. In J. Tremmel (Ed.), A young generation under pressure? (pp. 129-154). Heidelberg: Springer.

Stern, J., Larsson, M., Kristiansson, P., & Tydén, T. (2013). Introducing reproductive life plan-based information in contraceptive counselling: An RCT. Human Reproduction, 28, 2450-2461.

Tuzer, V., Tuncel, A., Göka, S., Dogan Bulut, S., Yüksel, F. V., Atan, A., & Göka, E. (2010). Marital adjustment and emotional symptoms in infertile couples: Gender differences. Turkish Journal of Medical Sciences, 40, 229-237. doi: 10.3906/sag-09001-17

Ulrich, D., Gagel, D. E., Hemmerling, V. S., & Hentenich, H. (2004). Couples becoming parents: Something special after IVF?. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 25, 99-113. doi: 10.1080/17402520400004599

Wagner, A., & Falcke, D. (2001). Satisfação conjugal e transgeracionalidade: Uma revisão teórica sobre o tema. Psicologia Clínica, 13, 1-15.

Wang, K., Li, J., Zhang, J. X., Zhang, L., Yu, J., & Jiang, P. (2007). Psychological characteristics and marital quality of infertile women registered for in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection in China. Fertility and sterility, 87, 792-798. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2006.07.1534

Weinstein, L., Powers, J., & Laverghetta, A. (2010). College students’ chronological age predicts marital happiness regardless of length of marriage. College Student Journal, 44, 413-416.

Whisman, M. A., Uebelacker, L. A., & Weinstock, L. M. (2004). Psychopathology and marital satisfaction: The importance of evaluating both partners. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 830-838. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.72.5.830

World Health Organization. (2009). Sexual and reproductive health: Infertility definitions and terminology. Retrieved from



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Nº ERC: 107494 | ISSN (in print): 0870-8231 | ISSN (online): 1646-6020 | Copyright © ISPA - CRL, 2012 | Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisboa | NIF: 501313672 | O portal e metadados estão licenciados sob a licença Creative Commons CC BY-NC