Implicitly imprinting the past on the present: Automatic partner attitudes and the transition to parenthood.

A new model is proposed to explain how automatic partner attitudes affect how couples cope with major life transitions. The automatic partner attitudes in transition (APAT) model assumes that people simultaneously possess contextualized automatic attitudes toward their partner that can differ substantively in valence pre- and posttransition. It further assumes that evaluatively inconsistent pre- and posttransition automatic partner attitudes elicit heightened behavioral angst or uncertainty, self-protective behavior in response to risk, and relationship distress. A longitudinal study of the transition to first parenthood supported the model. People with evaluatively inconsistent automatic partner attitudes, whether more negative pretransition and positive posttransition, or more positive pretransition and negative posttransition, exhibited heightened evidence of cardiovascular threat discussing conflicts, increased self-protective behavior in response to parenting-related transgressions in daily interaction, and steeper declines in relationship well-being in the year following the transition to parenthood. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)