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Context may explain why dads are happier and less stressed than moms



Summary: The differences between each parents’ stress and happiness may boil down to how, and when, childcare activities are split between the parties. Fathers tend to be less stressed and happier, especially if their childcare activities are more recreational. Maternal stress is higher, and happiness is lower, as they tend to provide more hands-on parenting.

Source: Journal of Family Issues.

Dads are often happier, less stressed and less tired than moms while taking care of kids. A study was carried out to discover the cause of it. The researchers observed that these differences may come down because of how and when childcare activities are split between parents.

In the study led by Penn State, the researchers analysed childcare through the lens of a “care context.” Apart from considering how much time mothers and fathers spend taking care of their children, the researchers also checked on the type of childcare activity, when and where it took place, who was present, and how much care was involved.

According to the researchers, previous work has reported that mothers tend to be more tired, stressed and unhappy than fathers during caregiving. But these sociodemographic characteristics alone could not explain some of these differences.

The researchers took data from the American Time Use Survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, which included information about 4,486 childcare activities, as well as who performed the activity and that person’s corresponding mood.

Additionally, the researchers analysed each activity through the care context, which comprised five dimensions. The first was “activity type,” and included physical (basic needs like food and sleep), recreational (like hobbies and sports), educational (helping with homework or meeting with teachers), and managerial (planning doctor visits or other outside activities).

The remaining dimensions included when and where the activity took place, who was present during the activity, and duration of the activity.

The researchers observed that fathers’ childcare activities were more likely to be recreational and take place on the weekend, while mothers’ activities were more likely to involve taking care of an infant and mainly it fits into the category of “solo parenting,” that is, parenting without a partner being there to help.

Also, the study findings fully explained differences in mother and father happiness, and partially explained differences in stress. It did not explain differences in tiredness.

Published: Journal of Family Issues.

Contact: Cadhala McDonell, Penn State.

Details: Image source IStock


Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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