Category Archives: parents

Should parents ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning?’

I wrote recently about Alan Krueger’s interesting research on how religion and sports/exercise bring happiness.

An NPR story recently referred to a meta-study of happiness and parenting featured in Newsweek magazine (which claimed that parents have 7% less happiness on average) and highlighted research of Florida State University’s Robin Simon (sociology) asserting that caring for kids brought greater depression and unhappiness, partly because of the childcaring itself and partly because of shriveled social networks that stemmed from parents staying in more (for the latter finding, Simon cites research by Linsbeth Levin at Duke).

Excerpts from NPR story:

“Dr. Simon: (reporting on parents’ self-rated emotions in sample of 13,000 time diary reports): They [parents] definitely experienced more depression. They – people with kids, all parents, that is to say including people with kids who are living at home, young children who are living at home, as well as empty-nest parents, surprisingly, when you combine all kinds of parents in the United States, and ask them, you know, if they experience these serious emotions, what you find is that they report significantly more feelings of depression than people who have never had kids.

MIKE PESCA: [NPR Bryan Project host] Does it correlate to the number of kids, or just having a kid?

Dr. SIMON: Well, we actually didn’t look at the number of kids, though I suspect that it does, because other sociological studies have found that the more kids one has the more feelings of depression.”

Simon goes on to say that some of this depression stems from the fact that parents are on their own and we don’t provide them enough social support and provide enough family-friendly policies for them to reap the full benefits of parenthood, including having access to decent healthcare. And host Mike Pesca describes Dan Gilbert’s work (Harvard, psychology) that asserts that parents are happier sleeping and grocery shopping than childrearing.

Simon goes own to admit that the while parents often report lower short-term happiness from parenting, most feel immense life satisfaction and pride from being parents.

Interestingly, this research doesn’t accord with careful research of hotshot economist Alan Krueger (at Princeton), whose work I discussed in an earlier blog post. He finds childcare giving as the fifth most pleasurable activity (out of 21 asked), where pleasurability (or their U-index) is the percent of 15-minute segments in which stressed/sadness/pain emotions exceeded happiness. Childcare had the 5th LOWEST U-index score. The Krueger research is preferably methodologically since it controls for respondents’ baseline levels of happiness, depression, etc. and thus is able to weed out whether parents, for example, are just more happier people in general. You can read the Krueger study here.