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Journal Article

The costs and benefits of parenthood for mental and physical health in the United States: the importance of parenting stage

Simon, R. W., Caputo, J.

Society & Mental Health (2018). Forthcoming.

DOI:10.1177/2156869318786760

Abstract

Although research finds that parents report greater depression than nonparents, we do not know whether the costs and benefits of parenthood for mental and physical health vary across parenting stages. Using the first wave of data from National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS; N = 2,730), we examine disparities in eight measures of mental and physical health between nonparents and parents whose youngest child is: (1) under 13, (2) 13 to 17, (3) 18 to 29, and (4) 30 years and older. Drawing on insights about stress, the life course, and the changing nature of the parental role, we hypothesize that the associations between parenthood and well-being are contingent on the parenting stage. Our analyses reveal some advantages associated with parenthood; we also find that parents whose children are 30 years and older report better mental and physical health than parents at all other stages. These results suggest that the costs and benefits of parenthood in the U.S. depend on the parenting stage.

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