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

Posted on November 5, 2013

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? This paper 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. Researchers conducted two studies with a total of 322 parents.

A controversial approach to parenting is the placement of one’s children at the center of family life, where they receive the lion’s share of the family’s social, financial, and emotional resources. Several authors have argued that prioritizing the needs and wants of one’s children to the detriment of one’s own undermines parental well-being. Casting doubt on this perspective, a growing body of evidence suggests that when we invest in the well-being of others, we experience greater well-being our-

The goal of the present research is to examine the relationship between what we term child-centric parenting and the well-being (positive affect [PA] and negative affect [NA] and meaning) that parents derive from their children.

Consistent with the prosocial investment hypothesis, the researchers found a positive association between parents’ child-centrism and their experience of meaning and PA when taking care of their children. By using the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) and by asking parents to respond to a child-centrism questionnaire after the happiness questions, the researchers were able to show that putting one’s children at the center of one’s life (thus presumably incurring more costs overtime) does not just enhance parents’ theories about how much enjoyment they derive from their children, but is associated with the actual enjoyment and meaning that parents derive from their children (cf., Eibach & Mock, 2011).

These findings stand in contrast to claims in the popular media that prioritizing children’s well-being undermines parents’ well-being: While child-centrism was not strongly associated with differences in the well-being that parents experienced during non-parenting activities, it was associated with the well-being that parents experienced when taking care of their children, suggesting that child-centrism may be associated with benefits rather than costs for parents’ well-being.


Source material from Sage

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