UMW Study: Intense Parenting Could Lead To Mental Health Problems
The study was a collaboration between associate professors of Psychology Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin, along with Kathryn Rizzo, a 2012 University of Mary Washington graduate.
Most women long to have children at some point in their lives, but a study from two University of Mary Washington psychology professors and a 2012 graduate states that intense parenting can be a detriment to the mother's mental health and can be more stressful than being at work.
UMW Associate Professors of Psychology Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin worked with 2012 graduate Kathryn Rizzo to produce the study that is getting attention from other publications.
"Parenthood has been associated with greater negative mental health outcomes, such as higher levels of perceived stress (Nomaguchi and Milkie 2003)," the study's introduction states. "In fact, in both qualitative and quantitative studies, women have reported that taking care of their children is more stressful than being at work (Guendouzi 2005; Kahneman et al. 2004). Parenting has also been related to higher levels of depression (Evenson and Simon 2005; Nomaguchi and Milkie 2003). Furthermore, parenting has been associated with a decrease in positive affect and, specifically, a decrease in happiness (Baumeister 1991; Nomaguchi and Milkie 2003)."
The study states that other studies show that parenting has connected parents to greater positive mental health and that it is rewarding, especially for fathers.
"This paternal benefit may result because the socially prescribed parenting
expectations for women are different than for men," the UMW study states.
This parentood paradox is clarified in the study by investigating specific ways of parenting. One of those ways of parenting, termed "intense mothering," can be challenging and requires skills that some parents just may not have, according to the study.
"This study was conducted to provide quantitative data on the relationship between intensive parenting and maternal mental health outcomes including stress, depression, and life satisfaction," the study states. "The first hypothesis was that endorsing intensive parenting attitudes would result in greater levels of stress and depression and lower levels of life satisfaction. Additionally, as Essentialism focuses on the primacy of the mother to the exclusion of other potential helpers in the family, we expected this scale to be related to lower levels of perceived family social support. The second hypothesis was that the endorsement of intensive parenting attitudes would predict maternal mental health outcomes above and beyond family social support, an already well-known predictor of well-being."
The study was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.