New Study Find Parents Less Stressed Than Non-Parents

By: John McKenzie, ABC News
By: John McKenzie, ABC News

Ever think your kids are driving you crazy? A new study finds it's probably not true--parents actually have less psychological distress than non-parents.

From the day they come home from the hospital until you drop them off at college, kids bring joy and stress into a parent's life.

But a new study finds that parents actually report fewer psychological problems than their non-parenting counterparts.

Researchers analyzed a national survey of more than 33,000 American adults. They found that nine-percent of parents said they had experienced serious psychological distress in the last year, compared to 12-percent of non-parents.

Younger women with lower incomes were the most likely to have severe mental stress.

Experts say that parents with a strong social support network through friends and family may be able to recover more quickly from psychological problems.

But the authors say that being a parent does not mean immunity from serious stress.

They estimate more than five-million American parents suffer from severe distress each year, with depression among the most common disorders.

They recommend that doctors be attuned to stressed out parents and make sure they get help before it starts to affect the children.

There are varying degrees of stress--one of them being chronic.

This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day and year after year.

Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation.

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  • by Jerry Location: Chicago on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:43 AM
    This might be an example where there's an implied causal relationship (having kids reduces stress) while the study actually reports two related conditions (being a parent, being less stressed). Someone who has a child might not have a perfect life but at least they've made a strong enough connection with another person to have a child. Contrast this with people who don't have children. Many of the childless group will have chosen not to have children but there may be a sizable percentage who, for whatever reason, want to have children but have not. Especially for women, there's still strong societal pressure to have a child. A childless person may feel that she is somehow incomplete. There may also be people who have difficulty forming relationships and this difficulty has contributed to why they don't have children. I have 3 children. While I love them, my life would have been much, much less stressfull had I not been a parent.
  • by Oliver Location: Chapel Hill, NC on Oct 31, 2007 at 11:07 AM
    As a researcher in social sciences, I feel I must caution people against drawing simplistic conclusions from this study and similar epidemiological surveys. People's social support and capacity for close relationships are major buffers against serious psychological distress, and obviously people with better social connections and those who can make good lasting relationships are also far more likely to also be parents that those who do not have those advantages. The finding that people who are parents are somewhat less likely to report serious psychological distress than non-parents is almost certainly only reflecting the average difference in social support between the groups rather than saying anything about parenthood itself.
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