The changes that take place following the birth of a child have the most impact on people who spent more time on sports, cultural and social activities before they became parents. These parents also find it more difficult to adapt to parenthood, conclude researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), Wageningen University & Research and the Swiss research centre FORS.
The research team concludes in its article in the European Journal of Population that the well-being of men with an active lifestyle decreases following the birth of the child. This is not the case for men with a less active lifestyle. For women, well-being increases after childbirth, but this positive effect is weaker if the mother worked long hours prior to the birth and spent more time on leisure activities.
People in Western Europe are having fewer children, which they also have later in life. One possible explanation for this behaviour is the expected high cost of having children, which does not weigh up against the considered benefits of parenthood. Children are an ‘expensive hobby’, in terms of leisure time and reduced paid work as well as the cost of childcare and so on. Future parents may also delay parenthood due to a fear that they will no longer have time for hobbies and other leisure activities.
The study shows that this fear is, to some extent, justified. Both men and women with an active lifestyle experience less of a psychological benefit from parenthood than people with a less active lifestyle.
The study was conducted by Anne Roeters (SCP), Jornt Mandemakers (Wageningen University & Research) and Marieke Voorpostel (FORS, Switzerland), based on Swiss panel data.
Over the course of 2 to 12 years, the study recorded the well-being of 1 322 men and 1 272 women aged between 18 and 40 at the start of the study who did not yet have children. In this time, 294 men and 330 women became parents.
Parenthood and Well-Being: The Moderating Role of Leisure and Paid Work, Anne Roeters, Jornt J. Mandemakers, Marieke Voorpostel, European Journal of Population, 23 August 2016, open-access, DOI: 10.1007/s10680-016-9391-3.