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Closing the Happiness Gap: The Decline of Gendered Parenthood Norms and the Increase in Parental Life Satisfaction


Preisner, Klaus; Neuberger, Franz; Bertogg, Ariane; Schaub, Julia M (2020). Closing the Happiness Gap: The Decline of Gendered Parenthood Norms and the Increase in Parental Life Satisfaction. Gender & Society, 34(1):31-55.

Abstract

In recent decades, normative expectations for parenthood have changed for both men and women, fertility has declined, and work–family arrangements have become more egalitarian. Previous studies indicate that the transition to parenthood and work–family arrangements both influence life satisfaction and do so differently for men and women. Drawing on constructivism and utility maximization, we theorize how gendered parenthood norms influence life satisfaction after the transition to parenthood, and how decisions regarding motherhood and fatherhood are made in order to maximize life satisfaction. We hypothesize that the rise of gender-egalitarian patterns has contributed to closing the parental happiness gap, and that the effects of motherhood and fatherhood on life satisfaction have converged. We test these assumptions by drawing on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (1984-2015) and applying a series of hybrid panel regressions to estimate motherhood and fatherhood effects on life satisfaction in Western Germany over the last three decades. We then trace trends in these effects back to changing parenthood norms. The results indicate that the implications of parenthood have converged for men and women. As support for a gendered division of labor has lost ground, the transition to parenthood has become increasingly conducive to life satisfaction for both genders, and the parental happiness gap has vanished.

Abstract

In recent decades, normative expectations for parenthood have changed for both men and women, fertility has declined, and work–family arrangements have become more egalitarian. Previous studies indicate that the transition to parenthood and work–family arrangements both influence life satisfaction and do so differently for men and women. Drawing on constructivism and utility maximization, we theorize how gendered parenthood norms influence life satisfaction after the transition to parenthood, and how decisions regarding motherhood and fatherhood are made in order to maximize life satisfaction. We hypothesize that the rise of gender-egalitarian patterns has contributed to closing the parental happiness gap, and that the effects of motherhood and fatherhood on life satisfaction have converged. We test these assumptions by drawing on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (1984-2015) and applying a series of hybrid panel regressions to estimate motherhood and fatherhood effects on life satisfaction in Western Germany over the last three decades. We then trace trends in these effects back to changing parenthood norms. The results indicate that the implications of parenthood have converged for men and women. As support for a gendered division of labor has lost ground, the transition to parenthood has become increasingly conducive to life satisfaction for both genders, and the parental happiness gap has vanished.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Gender Studies
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:motherhood, fatherhood, life satisfaction, parenthood norms, Germany, gender
Language:English
Date:February 2020
Deposited On:31 Oct 2019 08:58
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 00:07
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0891-2432
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243219869365

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