Can putting your child before yourself make you a happier person?

October 31, 2013, SAGE Publications

While popular media often depicts highly-involved parents negatively as "helicopter parents" or "tiger moms, how does placing one's children at the center of family life really affect parental well-being? New research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that parents who prioritize their children's well-being over their own are not only happier, but also derive more meaning in life from their child-rearing responsibilities.

"These findings stand in contrast to claims in the popular media that prioritizing children's well-being undermines parents' well-being," the researchers wrote.

Researchers Claire E. Ashton-James, Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W. Dunn conducted two studies with a total of 322 parents. In Study 1, parents were asked to complete a child-centrism scale to measure their parenting style and were then given a survey to measure the and meaning in life that they experienced from having children by responding to statements such as "My children make my life meaningful." The researchers found that more child-centric parents were significantly more likely to report higher happiness and a sense of purpose in life derived from having children.

In Study 2, participants were asked to retell their previous day's activities and report how they felt during each activity. The results indicated that more child-centric parents had greater positive feelings, less negative feelings, and experienced more meaning in life during child-care activities. In addition, the well-being of more child-centric parents was not affected negatively throughout the rest of the day, suggesting that the child-centric approach to parenting does not hurt parental well-being when parents are not taking care of their children.

"These findings suggest that the more care and attention people give to others, the more happiness and meaning they experience," the authors wrote. "From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their 's well-being—that is, the more 'child centric' are—the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting."

Explore further: Parents are happier than non-parents, new research suggests

More information: The article entitled "Parents Reap What They Sow: Child-Centrism and Parental Well-Being" published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, is available free for a limited time at: spp.sagepub.com/content/early/ … 479804.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

Parents are happier than non-parents, new research suggests

May 17, 2012
New research by psychologists at three North American universities, including the University of British Columbia, finds that parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning from life than non-parents.

Parents greatly underestimate how often their children are cyberbullied

October 25, 2013
Cyberbullying has become a destructive force in many children's lives. After multiple suicides by children being cyberbullied, parents, more than ever, need to be aware of their children's online activity. A recent paper ...

Study reveals benefits of wishes on seriously ill children and their parents

September 10, 2013
New research has shown that schemes that grant children with a life threatening illness a special wish have a positive impact on their and their family's wellbeing.

CWRU researchers find what stresses parents with a chronically ill child

September 18, 2013
The extra demands on parents of chronically ill children cause stress that affects the whole family, according to a systematic review conducted by Case Western Reserve University researchers that also explored what factors ...

Helping or hovering? A parent's dilemma

February 12, 2013
When is it time for parents to back away? A new study shows that college students with overcontrolling parents are more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives. This so-called helicopter parenting style ...

Raising adopted children, how parents cooperate matters more than gay or straight

July 12, 2013
A new study by psychology researchers suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple and support each other in parenting is linked to fewer behavior problems among their ...

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.