Intense Parenting Makes Moms Miserable

by Chris Curley on July 9, 2012

Mothers who take their parenting duties to the extreme may suffer mentally, a new study from the University of Mary Washington shows.

Women who practice “intensive parenting” tend to believe three things: that women are better suited to parenting than men, that their children should be at the center of their lives, and that children are sacred and having children is automatically fulfilling to parents.

But while intensive parenting may fit in with some people’s idealized views on motherhood, sacrificing everything for your child doesn’t do much for a mother’s sanity, the study indicates. Nearly a quarter of women who espoused intensive parenting beliefs suffered from symptoms of depression.

Women “may think that [intensive parenting] makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive, social and emotional outcomes,” the study authors write. “In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.”

Previous studies have shown that stay-at-home mothers have lower levels of life satisfaction than working mothers, and that working mothers are happier than stay-at-home moms.

The study appears online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.