The Joy of Parenting: Are Parents Just Fooling Themselves?

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.


Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

@Dazee - it provides an insight into one of the most important human activities. How many children parents decide to have ultimately determine a nation's birth rate (which is too low for countries with declining population like Japan and too high for many third world countries).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't argue with the findings of this study but I can't help but wonder... what's the point of this study? What benefit is it trying to give to society? I'm not saying there isn't one, but what is it? Did any good come from it? And if there is no benefit and was no intended benefit.. why was it done?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"To be sure, all such evidence will never outweigh the desire to procreate, which is one of the most powerfully encoded urges built into our DNA."

I must have DNA FAIL then. I have never had ANY desire to procreate. My DNA FAIL is probably helped along by my child obsessed bat-shit crazy mother has no personal identity... all she lives for is people recognizing what an AWESOME MOM she is (which she is not). She is so obsessed with this that 10 years after having her tubes tied, she took herself out of menopause (via drugs) to squeeze out another kid at 51.

She disgusts me.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I see no reason why everyone has to have children. However, it seems a little narcissistic to act like being a parent is for suckers. I should remind some of you, that you wouldn’t be here if your parents had the same attitude.

So, why not call your Mom and Dad tonight and thank them for not taking the money.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It IS grinding and tiresome raising a child. But I rather let myself be ground to pieces by my own kids than waste a lifetime working in a business that does the same to me without the emotional reward.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Joy of Parenting: Are Parents Just Fooling Themselves?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More