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Intensive parenting makes mum and dad miserable: study

Recent research has obscured the wellbeing divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

Almudena Sevilla from Queen Mary University of London has found that better educated mums are less happy when caring for their kids.

After controlling for other variables, Sevilla, a professor of economics, extrapolated that this is due to overly intense parenting techniques.

“These mothers tend to be pioneers of focused mothering that involves lots of conversation, reasoning and intellectually stimulating activities, such as reading and support with play and homework,” she said. “The long-term educational benefits to their children are well established.”

In addition to the type of activities, the time spent on them was also a factor leading to the ‘miserable, educated mums’ finding. In the US, more-educated mums spent, on average, an extra 1.5 hours a week caring for their children. A similar time discrepancy was determined in the UK. Moreover, educational play time doubled for college-educated mums between the 1970s and 2010, whereas, it increased only by a quarter for those without degrees.

The flipside of this time-intensive tutoring is, however, stressed out mums, which raises uncertainty about its overall worth.

“Given what we already know, for example, about the detrimental impact of post-partum depression,” Seville stated, “it may not be good to advocate extra reading with the children if that produces stressed-out parents who end up yelling at the kids.”

The findings may also explain why mums with less education tend not to adopt ‘concerted cultivation’ as their parenting approach.

Educated dads, too, appear vulnerable to the unhappy childcare equation: Seville established that they are equally susceptible to this.

But the question, ‘Why so sad?’, remains. “At this point, we can’t be sure of the cause,” Seville acknowledged, yet she surmised that it could be the stress of societal pressure to do the best for one’s progeny, not the doing itself.

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