Richard Eibach and Steven Mock of University of Waterloo say any parent can say raising a child is emotionally and intellectually draining, but despite the sacrifice, financial hardship and declines in marital satisfaction, many parents insist children are an essential source of happiness.
The researchers say the study involved 80 fathers and mothers, each a parent with at least one child age 18 or under. Half of the parents were exposed to the financial costs of parenting by reading a government document estimating that the costs of raising a child to age 18 cost more than $190,000.
The other parents got the same document, but they also read about the financial benefits of parenting -- adult children often provide financial and care giving to aging parents.
Both groups took two psychological tests -- one measured how much they idealized parenting and the other assessed parents' feelings of discomfort and uneasiness during the experiment.
The study, published in Psychological Science, found parents whose feelings of emotional discomfort were measured immediately after priming their thoughts about the cost of children say they felt much worse than did the parents with a more mixed view of parenting.
However, if the researchers first gave them the opportunity to idealize parenting and family life -- then measured their conflicted feelings -- those negative feelings were gone, the study says.