Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Sociology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Jennifer March Augustine

Abstract

Both scholars and the public have been intrigued by the question of whether parents experience higher levels of emotional wellbeing than adults who are not raising children. Yet despite decades of research on the topic, the answer to this question remains unclear. Using a novel source of nationally representative data, the Wellbeing Module of the American Time Use Survey (2010, 2012, 2013), this dissertation aims to unpack and extend prior understanding of the parenting wellbeing gap by pursing two studies. The first investigates whether parenthood may have both positive and negative links to adults’ emotional wellbeing; whether the gap varies across certain contexts; and whether it is driven by women more so than men. I find that parents experienced more positive affect than adults who are not raising children, but also more negative affect. This pattern, however, only existed during nonmarket work, and leisure—not during paid labor. Interestingly, parenthood exacerbated positive emotions only during time when parents were in the presence of children, but it heightened negative emotions during all time, regardless of whether children were present or not. Patterns were generally the same for men as women. In the second study, I explore whether parenting is experienced differently by adults with higher or lower education levels. I find that raising children is associated with greater levels of positive emotions (happiness and meaning) across education groups, but it is also associated with greater levels of negative emotions (stress and fatigue) only for higher educated parents. When considering the role of gender, for high SES individuals, parenthood is associated with greater levels of positive and negative emotions for both men and women, while at the low SES level, parenthood makes no difference in negative emotions (for either men or women) and increases positive emotions only for men.

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