Skip to content

Mental Health Center

Kids Often Depress Parents

More Depression in Dads and Moms Than in Child-Free Adults
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 10, 2006 -- Kids just aren't good for parents' mental health, sociologists find.

Moms and dads -- even empty-nesters -- report more depressive symptoms than childless people, find Ranae J. Evenson, PhD, of Vanderbilt University, and Robin W. Simon, PhD, of Florida State University.

"Parents report significantly higher levels of depression than nonparents," Evenson and Simon write. "One of our most interesting findings is that there is no type of parent that reports less depression than nonparents."

The researchers analyzed data collected in 1987 and 1988 on nearly 13,000 U.S. residents. The survey included black and Hispanic Americans, so the findings apply across racial and ethnic lines.

Surprisingly -- given longstanding concern over the emotional consequences of motherhood -- fathers reported just as much depression as mothers.

"Despite the female excess of depression among all types of parents (and nonparents) in our national sample, the association between parenthood and symptoms does not significantly differ for women and men," Evenson and Simon report in the December 2005 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Parenthood: No Promise of Paradise

There are lots of great reasons to be a parent. But in and of itself, parenthood won't improve your mental health -- or your relationship with your spouse, says psychologist (and parent) Susan Jeffers, PhD. Jeffers, best known for the self-help classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, is the author of I'm Okay, You're a Brat!: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood.

"Society tries to tell us parenthood is the greatest fulfillment of all times," Jeffers tells WebMD. "That is not true for a majority of people. One can find wonderful things about having children. But people are not talking about the negative effect it has on your life. And it is very hard on relationships."

It's not just the wear and tear of having an infant, Evenson and Simon find. Parents are more depressed than nonparents:

  • Even when their kids have grown and left home
  • Even when they do not have custody of the children
  • Even when they adopt
  • Even when they become stepparents

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

contemplation
Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
 
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
 
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Article
Plate of half eaten cakes
Article
 
Phobias
Slideshow
mother kissing newborn
Slideshow
 
Woman multitasking
Article
thumbnail_tired_woman_yawning
Article
 
colored pencils
VIDEO
Woman relaxing with a dog
Feature
 

WebMD Special Sections