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, 24 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2019)
This working paper has been published in Social Psychology Quarterly. The paper is open access. You can access the paper here:
Open Access


Although public debate ensues over whether parents or nonparents have higher levels of emotional well-being, scholars suggest that being a parent is associated with a mixed bag of emotions. Drawing on the American Time Use Survey (2010, 2012, 2013) and unique measures of subjective well-being that capture positive and negative emotions 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) respondent’s gender. We found that parenting was associated with more positive emotions than nonparenting, but also more negative emotions. This pattern only existed during housework and leisure, not during paid work. Moreover, patterns in positive emotions only existed when parents’ children were present; patterns in negative emotions were primarily observed during earlier stages of parenting. Results were similar for men and women.

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