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Psychology of Parenthood Tip Sheet

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May and June seem to revolve around family in the United States, with Mother’s Day on May 14th and Father’s Day on June 18th. The end of the school year and star of summer months can also signal families spending more time together.  Discover what social and personality psychology can show us about the close relationship dynamics of parents and parenthood in this month’s SPSP tip sheet.


Personality change and parenthood

Wiebke Bleidorn
Associate Professor, University of California, Davis

Professor Bleidorn examines the conditions, mechanisms, and consequences of personality change. Her current research involves questions about the cultural and social conditions under which people change, the genetic and environmental mechanisms that account for change, and the consequences of these changes for psychological functioning and important life outcomes.

Parenthood, Couple’s Relationships, & Children’s Development

Galena Rhoades

Research Associate Professor and Associate Clinical Professor, University of Denver
Phone: 303-871-4280

Dr. Rhoades research is on romantic relationship development and functioning, and the related implications for children and adults. Her research projects and collaborations include studies of cohabitation, mechanisms of change in couple interventions, infidelity, spouses' perceptions of one another, relationship processes and psychopathology, as well as adolescent adjustment.

From the Journals

Stability and Change in Self-Esteem During the Transition to Parenthood Wiebke Bleidorn, Asuman Buyukcan-Tetik, Ted Schwaba, Manon A. van Scheppingen, Jaap J. A. Denissen, Catrin Finkenauer. Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 7, 6: pp. 560-569. , First Published April 29, 2016.

Bleidorn and colleagues show changes in self-esteem affect mothers more than fathers after the birth of the first child. These changes are most notable in the year after the child is born, and result in lasting declines among mothers’ self-esteem.

The Costs of Suppressing Negative Emotions and Amplifying Positive Emotions During Parental Caregiving Bonnie M. Le, Emily A. Impett Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 42, 3: pp. 323-336. , First Published February 10, 2016.

How do parents feel when they regulate their emotional expressions in ways that do not match their genuine feelings? Research suggests that parents’ attempts to suppress negative and amplify positive emotions during child care can detract from their well-being and high-quality parent–child bonds.

Understanding When Parental Praise Leads to Optimal Child Outcomes: Role of Perceived Praise Accuracy Hae In Lee, Young-Hoon Kim, Pelin Kesebir, Da Eun Han. Social Psychological and Personality Science, First Published December 22, 2016.

Parents and teachers praise children, but too much or too little praise can have negative effects. In this study, researchers show the importance of basing praise of children on actual performance and the need to pay careful attention to how praise is perceived by the child.

Parents Reap What They Sow: Child-Centrism and Parental Well-Being Claire E. Ashton-James, Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth W. Dunn Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 4, 6: pp. 635-642. , First Published March 14, 2013.

Ashton-James and colleagues show that link between child-centrism and well-being stands in contrast to recent arguments about the pitfalls of overinvestment in children. Their results dovetail with a growing body of evidence that personal well-being is associated with investing in others rather than oneself.

In Case You Missed It

How Asian American 'Tiger Mothers' Motivate Their Children

Researchers at Stanford University delved deeper into Amy Chua’s ‘tiger mother’ approach, and their research sheds light on key fundamental differences in parenting methods between Asian Americans and European Americans. - May 2014

A Father's Love is One of the Greatest Influences on Personality Development

A father’s love contributes as much — and sometimes more — to a child's development as does a mother's love. That is one of many findings in a new large-scale analysis of research about the power of parental rejection and acceptance in shaping our personalities as children and into adulthood. -  June 2012.

The Skills that Make Us a Good Partner Make Us a Good ParentBeing a good partner may make you a better parent. The same set of skills that we tap to be caring toward our partners is what we use to nurture our children, researchers found. However, the researchers found that how you care toward your partner does not relate to how your partner behaves as a parent. – December 2012

News Media may contact for copies of studies mentioned in this tip sheet.

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With over 7500 members, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) is the largest organization of social psychologists and personality psychologists. SPSP's mission is to produce and disseminate knowledge about personality and social psychology, facilitate the careers of students and professionals, and recognize and promote achievements in personality and social psychology.

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