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Psychol Sci. 2011 Feb;22(2):203-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797610397057. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Idealizing parenthood to rationalize parental investments.

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Psychology Department, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.


Although raising children has largely negative effects on parents' emotional well-being, parenthood is often idealized as a uniquely emotionally rewarding role. We tested the hypothesis that belief in myths idealizing parenthood helps parents cope with the dissonance aroused by the high financial cost of raising children. In Study 1, parents endorsed the idealization of parenthood more when only the costs of parenting were made salient than when both the costs of parenting and the long-term benefits of having children were made salient. When dissonant feelings were measured before idealization of parenthood, these feelings mediated the influence of the salient information on idealization of parenthood. In Study 2, participants reported greater enjoyment of the time they spent with their children and intended to spend more leisure time with their children when only parenting costs were made salient than when the long-term benefits of having children were also made salient (or when no costs or benefits of having children were made salient). We discuss the implications of our results for parental-investment theory and for the propagation of myths idealizing parenthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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