MPIDR Working Paper

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

Yavorsky, J. E., Negraia, D. V.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-013, 57 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2019)
This paper has been submitted for publication to the Journal of Marriage and Family



Objective: This study examines whether and, if so, how the gender composition of their children influences mother’s and father’s well-being during parenting activities.

Background: Despite that parents socialize and interact with girls and boys differently and spend different amounts of time with them, little attention has been paid to how gender composition of children may matter for parental well-being.

Method: The analyses are based on a nationally representative sample of over 18,000 activities from nearly 9,300 parents from the 2010, 2012, and 2013 Well-being Module and American Time Use Survey. Random intercept models are used to account for the multilevel structure of the data.

Results: Mothers and fathers report similar levels of happiness and meaning while parenting across different gender compositions of children, with one exception: mothers of adolescent daughters report lower meaning than mothers of adolescent sons. At the same time, both mothers and fathers report greater negative emotions (like stress or fatigue) while parenting girls than while parenting boys. These patterns can be partly explained by differences in activities that parents do with girls versus boys.

Conclusion: Our study, which we contextualize in broader literature on gender stereotypes and gendered socialization and interactional processes, makes several contributions to research on gender, family, and health and identifies a key factor—gender composition of children—that moderates mothers’ and fathers’ emotional 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.