Rationalizing the economic costs of raising children

Discovery News reports on two recent studies that look at how parents respond to information about how much it costs to raise children today:

New research suggests that people may exaggerate the perks of being parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.

Two studies, featured in the journal Psychological Science, measured more than 140 parents’ feelings after being presented with information regarding the hefty bill of raising a child. In the Northeast, raising one child to the age of 18 costs nearly $193,000, according to the research.

In one of the studies, researchers exposed half of parents to the overall costs of raising a child, while the other half received information about the costs as well as information suggesting that children care for and financially support aging parents later in life.

The team discovered that parents who were only exposed to the costs of parenthood (not the benefits) rationalized such costs by reporting a higher intrinsic value of being parents. The other group, which received information regarding the costs and benefits of parenthood, did not show an increase in rationalization…

These findings by no means suggest that parents do not enjoy parenthood or fail to love their children, but rather emphasize that parents are sometimes faced with conflicting feelings regarding the costs and benefits of having children.

It would be interesting to hear what it means to parents when they talk about “a higher intrinsic value of being parents.” Are there certain kinds of behaviors from children or experiences parents have with children where the economic costs end up outweighing “the intrinsic value”? How much can parents openly talk about the economic costs of children when it seems like a crass way to talk about their kids?

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