If your relationship was rocky and violent during pregnancy, you are less likely to adopt a good parenting style after the baby is born, according to a new study. The study, completed by Mark E. Feinberg and fellow researchers, revealed a direct connection between violence in relationships during pregnancy and difficulty parenting after birth.

Not all marriages or relationships are perfect, but turning to violent means during arguments may have a direct impact on the strength of the parenting team. According to the study researchers, “This study is helpful because working as a parenting team, in what we call the co-parenting relationship, is a key influence on everything from the mothers’ postpartum depression to sensitive parenting to the children’s emotional and social adjustment.” Violent relationships during pregnancy may also increase the risk of depression, which is shown to negatively impact the brain and physical growth in utero. Slightly more than 150 couples were interviewed for the study. Couples were interviewed during the pregnancy, six months after labor and again when infants were about a year old. Researchers reported the results in the Journal of Family Issues.

According to the research study, women were more violent than men – 29.8% versus 17.3%. The typical act of violence included slapping, hitting or shoving and is not uncommon in marriages, especially marriages with small children.

However, just because small amounts of violence may be common in some parenting relationships does not mean this violence is not a cause for concern. According to Feinberg, “It is important to pay attention to prenatal violence and risk, because low levels of violence among couples may get worse with the stress of parenting small children. And there’s a lot of overlap between couple violence and child maltreatment.”

Researchers noted that this study is unique because many other studies focus on violence toward pregnant females outside of a couple’s relationship. This study only accepted couples who were pregnant. Both male and female parents were given a platform to speak about violence occurring in the home.

Source: Mark E. Feinberg and Anna R. Solmeyer. Penn State. 6 March, 2012.