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Costs and Rewards of Children: The Effects of Becoming a Parent on Adults' Lives

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Abstract

How do new parents differ from their childless counterparts in social and psychological resources, daily strains, and psychological well-being? Using a nationally representative panel of 1,933 adults who were childless at the first interview, we compare 6 indicators of adults' lives for those who became parents and those remaining childless several years later, controlling for earlier states. Becoming a parent is both detrimental and rewarding. With the exception of social integration, which is greater for all groups of new parents compared with their childless counterparts, the effects of parental status on adults' lives vary markedly by gender and marital status. Unmarried parents report lower self-efficacy and higher depression than their childless counterparts. Married mothers' lives are marked by more housework and more marital conflict but less depression than their childless counterparts. Parental status has little influence on the lives of married men.

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