Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 614–620 | Cite as

Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental Health Outcomes of Intensive Mothering

  • Kathryn M. Rizzo
  • Holly H. Schiffrin
  • Miriam Liss
Original Paper

Abstract

Though people often report wanting to have children because they think it will make them happier, much research suggests that parenting is associated with decreased well-being. Other studies have found that parenting is related to increased life satisfaction. The goal of this study was to provide insight into this paradox by investigating the relationship between a specific way of parenting, intensive parenting, and maternal mental health. An online survey was completed by 181 mothers with children ages 5 and under. Intensive mothering beliefs correlated with several negative mental health outcomes. Controlling for perceived family social support, the belief that women are the essential parent was related to lower life satisfaction and believing that parenting is challenging was related to greater depression and stress. The results of this study suggest that aspects of intensive mothering beliefs are detrimental to women’s mental health. It may not be parenting per se, but specific and particularly intensive ways of parenting, that relate to negative mental health outcomes.

Keywords

Intensive parenting Mothers Parenting Depression Life satisfaction Stress Family social support 

References

  1. Arendell, T. (2000). Conceiving and investigating motherhood: The decade’s scholarship. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1192–1207. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01192.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  3. Bayer, J. K., Sanson, A. V., & Hemphill, S. A. (2006). Parent influences on early childhood internalizing difficulties. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 542–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beardslee, W. R., Bemporad, J., Keller, M. B., & Klerman, G. L. (1983). Children of parents with major affective disorder: A review. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140, 825–832.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Canty-Mitchell, J., & Zimet, G. D. (2000). Psychometric properties of the multidimensional scale of perceived social support in urban adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 391–400. doi:10.1023/A:1005109522457.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (1994). Maternal depression and child development. Journal of Child Psychological Psychiatry, 35, 73–112. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1994.tb01133.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49, 14–23. doi:10.1037/0708-5591.49.1.14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.Google Scholar
  10. Dykstra, P. A., & Keizer, R. (2009). The wellbeing of childless men and fathers in mid-life. Ageing & Society, 29, 1227–1242. doi:10.1017/S0144686X08008374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elvin-Nowak, Y. (1999). The meaning of guilt: A phenomenological description of employed mothers’ experiences of guilt. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40, 73–83. doi:10.1111/1467-9450.00100.Google Scholar
  12. Evenson, R. J., & Simon, R. W. (2005). Clarifying the relationship between parenthood and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 341–358. doi:10.1177/002214650504600403.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gaunt, R. (2008). Maternal Gatekeeping: Antecedents and consequences. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 373–395. doi:10.1177/0192513X07307851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guendouzi, J. (2005). “I feel quite organized this morning”: How mothering is achieved through talk. Sexualities, Evolution, & Gender, 7, 17–35. doi:10.1080/14616660500111107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hansen, T., Slagsvold, B., & Moum, T. (2009). Childlessness and psychological well-being in midlife and old age: An examination of parental status effects across a range of outcomes. Social Indicators Research, 94, 319–342. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9426-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haslam, D. M., Pakenham, K. I., & Smith, A. (2006). Social support and postpartum depressive symptomatology: The mediating role of maternal self-efficacy. Infant Mental Health Journal, 27, 276–291. doi:10.1002/imhj.20092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Johnston, D. D., & Swanson, D. D. (2006). Constructing the “good mother”: The experience of mothering ideologies by work status. Sex Roles, 54, 509–519. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9021-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D. A., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306, 1776–1780. doi:10.1126/science.1103572.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kandel, D. B., Davies, M., & Raveis, V. H. (1985). The stressfulness of daily social roles for women: Marital, occupational, and household roles. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 26, 64–78. doi:10.2307/2136727.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Koropeckyj-Cox, T. (1998). Loneliness and depression in middle and old age: Are the childless more vulnerable? The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 53B, S303–S2312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lareau, A. (2002). Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in black families and white families. American Sociological Review, 67, 747–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Levy-Shiff, R., Dimitrovksy, L., Shulman, S., & Har-Even, D. (1998). Cognitive appraisals, coping strategies, and support resources as correlates of parenting and infant development. Developmental Psychology, 34, 1417–1427. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.34.6.1417.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Liss, M., Schiffrin, H. H., Mackintosh, V. H., Miles-McLean, H. & Erchull, M. J. (2012). Development and validation of a quantitative measure of intensive parenting attitudes. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi:10.1007/s10826-012-9616-y.
  26. Logsdon, M. C., Birkimer, J. C., & Barbee, A. P. (1997). Social support providers to postpartum women. Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, 12, 89–102.Google Scholar
  27. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mathiesen, K. S., Tambs, K., & Dalgard, O. S. (1999). The influence of social class, strain, and social support on symptoms of anxiety and depression in mothers of toddlers. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 34, 61–72. doi:10.1007/s001270050113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mistry, R., Stevens, G. D., Sareen, H., De Vogli, R., & Halfon, N. (2007). Parenting-related stressors and self-reported mental health of mothers with young children. American Journal of Public Health, 97, 1261–1268. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2006.088161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nomaguchi, K. M., & Milkie, M. A. (2003). Costs and rewards of children: The effects of becoming a parent on adults’ lives. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 356–374. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00356.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Parks, P., Lenz, E. R., & Jenkins, L. (1992). The role of social support and stressors for mothers and infants. Child: Care, Health and Development, 18, 151–171. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.1992.tb00349.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessments, 5, 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reifman, A., Biernat, M., & Lang, E. L. (1991). Stress, social support, and health in married professional women with young children. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 431–445. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00419.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sutherland, J. (2010). Mothering, guilt and shame. Sociology Compass, 4, 310–321. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00283.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Terry, D., Rawle, R., & Callan, V. (1995). The effects of social support on adjustment to stress: The mediating role of coping. Personal Relationships, 2, 97–124. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1995.tb00080.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tummala-Narra, P. (2009). Contemporary impingements on mothering. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 69, 4–21. doi:10.1057/ajp.2008.37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Umberson, D., & Gove, W. R. (1989). Parenthood and psychological well-being: Theory, measurement and stage in the family life course. Journal of Family Issues, 10, 440–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wall, G. (2010). Mothers’ experiences with intensive parenting and brain development discourse. Women’s Studies International Forum, 33, 253–263. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2010.02.019.
  40. Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G. K. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30–41. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa5201_2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn M. Rizzo
    • 1
  • Holly H. Schiffrin
    • 1
  • Miriam Liss
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations