The patter of little feet.
March 9, 2011 1:23 PM Subscribe
A 'paper which appears in the journal Psychological Science, presents the results of two studies conducted by Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The studies tested the hypothesis that “idealizing the emotional rewards of parenting helps parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.”
Their hypothesis comes out of cognitive-dissonance theory, which suggests that people are highly motivated to justify, deny or rationalize to reduce the cognitive discomfort of holding conflicting ideas. Cognitive dissonance explains why our feelings can sometimes be paradoxically worse when something good happens or paradoxically better when something bad happens.'
'Here's how cognitive-dissonance theory works when applied to parenting: having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.'
But the picture is complicated, and perhaps the parents are right after all. It transpires that age is a critical factor. 'Older Parents Are Happier With More Children; Young Parents, With Fewer.'
'"Children may be a long-term investment in happiness," says MPIDR demographer Mikko Myrskylä. Together with Rachel Margolis from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA, he published the new study in the latest issue of the journal "Population and Development Review." It shows a global trend: while for parents under 30 the level of happiness decreases with the first and each additional child, mothers and fathers aged 30 to 39 feel as happy as childless peers until they have four children or more. From age 40 onwards parents are even more content than childless couples are unless they have more then three children. Mothers and fathers over 50 are generally happier than their childless peers, no matter how numerous their offspring.
With a sound data basis, this study clarifies for the first time the discrepancy between the widespread belief that children bring happiness and the fact that most research finds either a negative or no significant relationship between parenthood and well being. "Seeing the age trend of happiness independent of sex, income, partnership status and even fertility rates shows that one has to explain it from the perspective of the stage of parents life," says Mikko Myrskylä who at the MPIDR is heading the Max Planck Research Group "Lifecourse Dynamics and Demographic Change."
In the early stages of parenting, positive aspects of having children are overshadowed by negative experiences such as lack of sleep, concerns about the child's well being, and financial strains. The older parents get, the less they feel such pressure caused by their offspring as the child grows up and becomes more independent. When children reach adulthood their parents, who are then between 40 and 60 years old, can benefit from them financially and emotionally. Consistently, the study finds that the satisfaction of parents over 40 rises with the number of children comparatively strongly in former socialist states. Welfare systems in these countries are less far developed and parents depend more on direct financial support from their children.
Governments also play a role in enhancing the happiness of young parents. In former socialist countries like Russia, Poland and Hungary that offer limited support for parents of young children, their contentment compared to childless peers decreases particularly strongly with the number of children. In contrast, the curve is rather flat in countries with more developed welfare states like Western Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In these countries peers with and without children feel similarly well at any age. At the same time the influence of children as a source of happiness seems to be rising over time. From 1997 to 2005 parents of all ages reported feeling happier than they did in the period from 1981 to 1996.'
This post was deleted for the following reason: we're getting into GYOB territory with these hot button topic posts and the massive pullkquotes that accompany them. If you're trying to share something neat on the web, great. If you're trying to start an argument, please do that someplace else. -- jessamyn
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments