Emotional Trade-Offs of Becoming a Parent: How Social Roles Influence Self-Discrepancy Effects

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Why do some people suffer from becoming a parent, whereas others do not? New parents' actual selves were related to their own hopes for themselves (ideal self) and to their spouse's sense of their responsibilities (ought self). Prebirth actual–ideal discrepancies predicted increased sadness or dejection after birth (especially for couples in longer marriages), whereas prebirth actual–ought discrepancies predicted decreased nervousness or agitation after birth (especially for mothers and couples with a less “easy” child). Becoming a parent introduces new demands that both interfere with attaining one's own hopes (increasing dejection in parents high in ideal [own] discrepancy) and shift attention to the new parenting role (decreasing agitation in parents high in ought [spouse] discrepancy).

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