Study Finds Some Parents Are Happiest When Kids Come First
November 1, 2013

Some Parents Are Happiest When Kids Come First

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Are so-called “helicopter parents” or “tiger moms” benefiting from caring for their developing child? Or are they self-centered “Mommy Dearests” – pushing their child to make up for their own unhappiness?

Despite whatever affect this parenting style might have on children, a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, has found parents who consider themselves child-centric do derive more satisfaction from life through caring for their child.

According to the authors of the study, their finding runs counter to the notion that child-centric parents focus on their child at the expense of their own happiness.

“This link between child-centrism and well-being stands in contrast to recent arguments about the pitfalls of over-investment in children, while dovetailing with a growing body of evidence that personal well-being is associated with investing in others rather than oneself,” they wrote.

To reach their conclusion, researchers from VU University in Amsterdam and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver performed two studies that included over 320 parents. In the first study, parents were given a survey to gauge their parenting style and measure the happiness and life-satisfaction they derived from having a child. The researchers discovered that child-centric parents were considerably more likely to report higher levels of happiness and a sense of purpose resulting from having a child.

In the second study, parents were asked to report a previous day's activities and say how they were feeling during each individual activity. The results of this study showed that child-centric parents had higher amounts positive feelings, lower levels of negative feelings and experienced more life-satisfaction during child-care activities. The researchers also found child-centric parents were not affected negatively during their own activities, an indication that child-centric parenting does not hurt parental well-being when they are not directly caring for their child, the scientists said.

"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 children's well-being—that is, the more 'child centric' parents are—the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting."

The new report somewhat examines the parenting style advocate by Amy Chua, author of the popular parenting book 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.' In the book, Chua recounts what she says is the "Chinese" method of rearing children, a rigorous preparation for adulthood.

"Childhood is a training period, a time to build character and invest in the future,” according to Chua, a professor of law at Yale.

Chua rails against what she says are the methods of ‘western parents’: underemphasizing academic achievement in favor of emphasizing nurturing, socialization and self-esteem building.

While Chua’s parenting style may seem foreign to many Americans, so-called “helicopter parents,” particularly mothers, have made for popular American reality-television fodder in recent years. The show “Toddlers and Tiaras,” about child beauty pageant contestants and their parents, was so popular it spawned two separate spin-off series.