MPIDR Working Paper

Unpacking the parenting wellbeing gap: the role of dynamic features of daily life across broader social structures

Negraia, D. V., Augustine, J. M.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-011, 80 pages (June 2019).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

This paper is currently in the process of "revise and resubmit" with the journal of Social Psychology Quarterly

Keywords: USA, gender, individual welfare, life cycle, mental health, parenthood, time series


Although public debate ensues over whether parents or nonparents have higher levels of emotional wellbeing, scholars have suggested that both statuses are associated with a mixed bag of emotions. Drawing on the American Time Use Survey (2010, 2012, 2013) and unique measures of subjective wellbeing that capture positive and negative feelings linked to daily activities, we ‘unpack’ this mixed bag. We do so by examining contextual variation in the parenting emotions gap based on: (1) activity type, (2) whether parents’ children were present, (3) parenting stage, and (4) gender. We find that parenting is associated with more positive emotions than nonparenting, but also more negative emotions. This pattern only existed during housework and leisure, however; not paid labor. Moreover, patterns in positive emotions only existed when parents’ children were present; whereas patterns in negative emotions were primarily observed during earlier stages of parenting. Results were similar for men and women. 

Key words: subjective wellbeing, parenting, gender, life course, time diary methods