Many parents exaggerate their levels of parental joy to justify and accept the high cost of raising children, new research suggests.
The study included 80 fathers and mothers, each with at least one child under age 18. The Canadian researchers had half the parents focus on the financial costs of parenting by having them read a government document estimating that it costs more than $190,000 to raise a child to age 18.
The other parents were given this document, but also received information that explained that adult children often provide financial and practical support to aging parents.
All of the parents then underwent psychological tests to measure how much they idealized parenting and to assess their feelings of discomfort and uneasiness during the study.
Those whose feelings of emotional discomfort were measured right after reading about the cost of raising children felt much worse than those who had been presented with the more balanced view of parenting, the researchers reported.
But the negative feelings eased if those parents were given some time to idealize parenting and family life, said researchers Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychological scientists at the University of Waterloo.
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discusses effective parenting.