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

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.

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Correspondence to Holly H. Schiffrin.

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Rizzo, K.M., Schiffrin, H.H. & Liss, M. Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental Health Outcomes of Intensive Mothering. J Child Fam Stud 22, 614–620 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9615-z

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Keywords

  • Intensive parenting
  • Mothers
  • Parenting
  • Depression
  • Life satisfaction
  • Stress
  • Family social support