MPIDR Working Paper

Mothers' and fathers' well-being while parenting: does the gender composition of children matter?

Negraia, D. V., Yavorsky, J. E., Dukhovnov, D.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-013, 48 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2019)
This paper has been revised and resubmitted for publication to the Journal of Marriage and Family
Open Access


Objective: This study examines whether—and if so how—gender composition of children matters for mothers’ and fathers’ well-being during parenting activities.
Background: Despite that parents interact with girls and boys differently and spend different amounts of time with them, scholars have paid little attention to how gender composition of children may influence parental well-being.
Method: The study assessed parental well-being during time spent with children, across four measures of subjective well-being (N = 16,140 activities, 8,621 parents), pooled across three survey waves (2010, 2012, 2013) from the American Time Use Survey Well-being Module. Random intercept models were used to account for the multilevel structure of the data.
Results: For both mothers and fathers, gender composition of children was not associated with different levels of positive emotions, like happiness or meaning, while parenting. However, for negative emotions, fathers reported greater stress parenting all girls and mixed-gender children (i.e., girl/s and boy/s at the same time) compared to parenting all boys. Mothers reported greater fatigue and stress parenting all girls, compared to parenting all boys. Differences in parenting activities partially explained the stress patterns, for both fathers and mothers.
Conclusion: This study, which is contextualized in broader literature on gender stereotypes, interactional processes and time-use, makes several contributions to research on gender, family, and health and identifies an important factor—gender composition of children—that helps shape mothers’ and fathers’ well-being while parenting.
Keywords: childhood/children, gender, family roles, parenting, time-use, well-being

Keywords: USA, childhood, children, family relationship, gender, mental health, parenthood
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.