In the current study, we used five waves of longitudinal data from a large representative sample of Norwegian mothers (N = 84,711) to examine the association between romantic relationship satisfaction and self-esteem before and after childbirth in subgroups of first-, second-, third-, and fourth-time mothers. Maternal self-esteem showed a highly similar change-pattern across subgroups. Specifically, self-esteem decreased during pregnancy, increased until the child was six months old and then gradually decreased over the following years. The replication of this trajectory across subgroups and pregnancies suggests that this is a normative change pattern. For relationship satisfaction, the birth of the first child seemed to have the strongest impact compared to the birth of subsequent children. In first-time mothers, relationship satisfaction was high during pregnancy, sharply decreased around childbirth and then gradually decreased in the following years. In second-, third-, and fourth-time mothers, the decrease in relationship satisfaction after childbirth was more gradual and linear compared to the sharp decrease found in first-time mothers. Moderate positive correlated changes between self-esteem and relationship satisfaction indicated that these constructs were linked over time. Discussion focuses on the implications of the results for theory and future research on self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and personality-relationship transactions.
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