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New guidance for health visitors on working with couple relationships

By OnePlusOne, 30 September 2015 Behaviour change, Children, Communication, Conflict, Early intervention, Fathers, New baby, New parents, Parenting, Postnatal depression, Pregnancy, Strengthening relationships, Transitions

OnePlusOne is offering free guidance for health visitors interested in supporting parents with relationship issues.

A strong and happy couple relationship can help form the basis of a safe and stable home environment that allows babies to grow and develop well during the crucial early years [1]. Offering support can help to minimise distress and prevent a decline in relationship satisfaction [2].

Raising a baby can be a stressful time, and the increased pressure and lack of sleep can often be associated with increased couple conflict. Intervening early and offering support can help keep relationships strong, and deal with any early symptoms of relationship stress [2].

Health visitors are not expected to be relationship counsellors, but many will recognise the value of being able to support parents with whatever might come up, including relationship troubles.

In fact, when relationship issues come up, research shows that parents are most likely to turn to an available professional for support [3], so having an understanding of how couple relationships work can be a vital part of the health visitor’s tool kit.

Health visitors are well placed to offer support as part of the wellbeing arm of the Healthy Child Programme, which focuses on preventative measures and early intervention [4], and evidence has shown that focusing on the couple relationship can be a beneficial addition to the parenting work that health visitors already do [5].




[1] Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Foster, C. A. (2003). Parenthood and Marital Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(3), 574–583.


[2] Coleman L., Mitcheson J., Casey P., Lloyd G. (2013) Couple relationships: Why are they important for health and wellbeing? Journal of Health Visiting. March 2013 Volume 1 Issue 3.


[3] Schulz, M. S., 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 and Clinical Psychology, 74(1), 20–31.


[4] Department of Health (2009) Healthy child programme – pregnancy and the first five years of life, London: DH


[5] Cowan, C. P., Cowan, P. A., & Barry, J. (2011) Couples’ groups for parents of pre-schoolers: Ten-year outcomes of a randomized trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(2), 240–250



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