Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Joy of Parenting: Are Parents Just Fooling Themselves?

via Neatorama by Alex on 3/9/11

Ask most parents and they'll gush about the joy of having kids or that having children is the best thing they've ever done. But if you look deeper, parents with minors who live at home are angrier and more depressed than non-parents … and the more kids they have, the angrier they get!

So why the disconnect? Are parents simply fooling themselves into thinking that they're happier with kids than if they were childless?

The answer is yes, according to psychologists Richard Eibach and Steven Mock.

The studies tested the hypothesis that "idealizing the emotional rewards of parenting helps parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children."

Their hypothesis comes out of cognitive-dissonance theory, which suggests that people are highly motivated to justify, deny or rationalize to reduce the cognitive discomfort of holding conflicting ideas. Cognitive dissonance explains why our feelings can sometimes be paradoxically worse when something good happens or paradoxically better when something bad happens. For example, in one experiment conducted by a team led by psychologist Joel Cooper of Princeton, participants were asked to write heartless essays opposing funding for the disabled. When these participants were later told they were really compassionate — which should have made them feel better — they actually felt even worse because they had written the essays. (More on Five Things for the New Mom Who Has Everything)

Here's how cognitive-dissonance theory works when applied to parenting: having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.

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