B3956 - Investigating the effects on happiness life satisfaction and meaning in life following the transition to parenthood - 27/01/2022

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Claire Haworth | University of Bristol (UK)
Ms. Megan Hamilton, Ms. Nina Di Cara
Title of project: 
Investigating the effects on happiness, life satisfaction, and meaning in life, following the transition to parenthood
Proposal summary: 

The project will investigate the impact that the transition to parenthood has on wellbeing. In particular, the project will focus on understanding how becoming a parent impacts individuals’ happiness, life satisfaction and meaning in life using a longitudinal design.
Research investigating the impact of parenthood on wellbeing produces mixed findings. Some findings indicate that parenthood is associated with detrimental effects on wellbeing (Stanca, 2012), whilst others have suggested that parenthood is associated with improved aspects of wellbeing (Nelson et al., 2013). However, the research investigating the effects of parenthood on wellbeing is difficult to summarise, due to the varying definitions of wellbeing that are used within the literature and the different means of operationalising the term. For example, studies have measured wellbeing by examining symptoms of depression, alcohol abuse, happiness, life satisfaction and frequency of positive and negative emotions. Therefore, this study aims to look at how parenthood effects different aspects of wellbeing individually as there may be differential effects of parenthood on happiness, life satisfaction, and meaning in life. Prior studies have found that parents have higher levels of meaning in life than non-parents (Nelson et al., 2013). However, there are more mixed findings regarding happiness and life satisfaction (Umberson & Gove, 1989). Therefore, the findings regarding the relationship between parenthood and wellbeing do not represent one construct and making concluding statements about parenthood and wellbeing would fail to acknowledge the discrepancies among how wellbeing has been measured and defined.
Previous research has suggested that the relationship between parenthood and wellbeing differs depending on gender, relationship status and financial strain on the parent. It has been reported that mothers experience poorer wellbeing in comparison to fathers (Nelson et al., 2019). Parents who are married may have better wellbeing in comparison to single parents because of the proposed benefits such as division of labour in the home and for parenting tasks (Cunningham & Knoester, 2007). Stanca (2012) also reported that parenthood negatively impacts life satisfaction due to a lack of financial satisfaction and increased financial strain associated with parenthood. Whether the individual is a first-time parent may also be important to investigate because experiences of parenting might not match prior expectations with consequences for mental health in new parents (Harwood et al., 2007).

Impact of research: 
The likely impact of this research is that it could allow a clearer insight into how parenthood impacts happiness, life satisfaction, and meaning in life, as distinct aspects of wellbeing. It is hoped that investigating these as distinct aspects of wellbeing will avoid the problem of making generalised conclusions about parenthood and its effects on wellbeing, which obscures the nuances of this relationship. Instead, the research could indicate whether parenthood effects these outcomes in the same way or in different ways. The consequences of poor mental health among parents and the effects it has on their children have been investigated. It has been proposed that for parents suffering with poor mental health, there is an increased risk of negative impacts to their children’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning and development (Stein et al., 2014). Therefore, investigating the effects of parenthood on wellbeing outcomes is likely to be important because it could help to identify whether aspects of wellbeing are negatively impacted. This could then be used to inform whether investigation is needed into finding interventions to improve the impacted aspect of wellbeing and could be used to investigate how parental wellbeing influences children.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 15 December, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 27 January, 2022
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Statistical methods, Parenting, Psychology - personality, Social science