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Idealizing Parenthood Functions to Justify Policy Neglect of Parents’ Economic Burdens


Richard P. Eibach, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1 [e-mail:].


Despite the fact that raising children contributes to the public good, parents receive little government assistance with their childrearing expenses. We suggest that people believe parents deserve little public assistance in part because they accept common myths that idealize the emotional rewards of parenthood. We review research demonstrating that parents accept these parenthood idealizing myths to alleviate dissonance about their costly investments in children whereas nonparents accept these myths to defend against the idea that the system unjustly exploits parents. Furthermore, when these parenthood idealizing myths are experimentally primed both parents and nonparents become less supportive of expanding government assistance to parents. We conclude by reviewing suggestions for how this research into the psychological functions of parenthood idealizing myths can help design more effective messaging strategies to persuade people to support policies that would expand public assistance to parents.