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Unformatted text preview: 40 contexts.org Hallmark stores stock baby cards filled with happy wishes for new parents, acknowledging and celebrating their long-awaited and precious bundle of joy. Too bad their selection doesnt include cards that recognize the negative emotions that often accompany parenthood. the joys of parenthood, reconsidered by robin w. simon Anne Taintor, Inc. Perhaps they should. Sociologists find that as a group, parents in the United States experience depression and emotional distress more often than their childless adult counterparts. Parents of young children report far more depression, emotional distress, and other negative emotions than non-parents, and parents of grown children have no better well-being than adults who never had children. That last finding contradicts the conventional wisdom that empty-nest parents derive all the emotional rewards of parent- hood because theyre done with the financially and psycholog- ically taxing aspects of raising young kids. These research findings, of course, fly in the face of our cultural dogma that proclaims it impossi- ble for people to achieve an emotionally fulfilling and healthy life unless they become parents. And thats a problem, because the vast majority of American men and women eventually have chil- dren, yet conditions in our society make it nearly impossible for them to reap all the emotional benefits of doing so. the greatest gift life has to offer Americans harbor a widespread, deeply held belief that no adult can be happy without becoming a parent. Parenthood, we think, is pivotal for developing and maintaining emotional well-being, and children are an essential ingredient for a life filled with positive emotions like happiness, joy, excitement, contentment, satisfaction, and pride. Even more than marriage and employment, our culture promotes the idea that parent- hood provides a sense of purpose and meaning in life, which are essential for good mental health. As a result, we encourage men and women to have children in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. Then, we congratulate them when they become parents with baby showers, flowers, balloons, and cigars. These and other cultural celebrations of the transition to parenthood reflect, reinforce, and perpetuate Americans beliefs that theres no better guarantee of achieving an emotionally fulfilling and healthy life than having children. And most fall right in step. The vast majority of men and women in the United States become parents either through birth, adoption, or marriage. The 20 th century witnessed impor- tant changes in the timing of parenthood (men and women are now deferring it until theyre older, compared to previous generations), yet demographers have found that sooner or later about 80 percent of the adult population has biological children. Nothing indicates a decline in the near future as cohorts of young adults who are currently childless are still in their childbearing years....
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This note was uploaded on 04/22/2010 for the course SOC 40187 taught by Professor Robert during the Fall '09 term at UC Davis.
- Fall '09