Does Having Kids Make You Happy?

1Research has found that having children is terrible for quality of life—but the truth about what parenthood means for happiness is a lot more complicated.

Few choices are more important than whether to have children, and psychologists and other social scientists have worked to figure out what having kids means for happiness. Some of the most prominent scholars in the field have argued that if you want to be happy, it’s best to be childless. Others have pushed back, pointing out that a lot depends on who you are and where you live. But a bigger question is also at play: What if the rewards of having children are different from, and deeper than, happiness?

The early research is decisive: Having kids is bad for quality of life. In one study, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues asked about 900 employed women to report, at the end of each day, every one of their activities and how happy they were when they did them. They recalled being with their children as less enjoyable than many other activities, such as watching TV, shopping, or preparing food.

Other studies find that when a child is born, parents experience a decrease in happiness that doesn’t go away for a long time, in addition to a drop in marital satisfaction that doesn’t usually recover until the children leave the house. As the Harvard professor Dan Gilbert puts it, “The only symptom of empty nest syndrome is nonstop smiling.”

After all, having children, particularly when they are young, involves financial struggle, sleep deprivation, and stress. For mothers, there is also in many cases the physical strain of pregnancy and breastfeeding. And children can turn a cheerful and loving romantic partnership into a zero-sum battle over who gets to sleep and work and who doesn’t.

As the Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior notes in her book, All Joy and No Fun, children provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments—“more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Someone who doesn’t understand this is welcome to spend a full day with an angry 2-year-old (or a sullen 15-year-old); they’ll find out what she means soon enough.

Read: It isn’t the kids. It’s the cost of raising them.

Children make some happy and others miserable; the rest fall somewhere in between—it depends, among other factors, on how old you are, whether you are a mother or a father, and where you live. But a deep puzzle remains: Many people would have had happier lives and marriages had they chosen not to have kids—yet they still describe parenthood as the “best thing they’ve ever done.” Why don’t we regret having children more?

One possibility is a phenomenon called memory distortion. When we think about our past experiences, we tend to remember the peaks and forget the mundane awfulness in between. Senior frames it like this: “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes—or napping, or shopping, or answering emails—to spending time with our kids … But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one—and nothing—provides us with so much joy as our children.

It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.” These are plausible-enough ideas, and I don’t reject them. But other theories about why people don’t regret parenthood actually have nothing to do with happiness—at least not in a simple sense.

One involves attachment. Most parents love their children, and it would seem terrible to admit that you would be better off if someone you loved didn’t exist. More than that, you genuinely prefer a world with your kids in it. This can put parents in the interesting predicament of desiring a state that doesn’t make them as happy as the alternative. In his book Midlife, the MIT professor Kieran Setiya expands on this point.

Modifying an example from the philosopher Derek Parfit, he asks readers to imagine a situation in which, if you and your partner were to conceive a child before a certain time, the child would have a serious, though not fatal, medical problem, such as chronic joint pain. If you wait, the child will be healthy. For whatever reason, you choose not to wait. You love your child and, though he suffers, he is happy to be alive. Do you regret your decision?

Read: How adult children affect their mother’s happiness

That’s a complicated question. Of course it would have been easier to have a kid without this condition. But if you’d waited, you’d have a different child, and this baby (then boy, then man) whom you love wouldn’t exist. It was a mistake, yes, but perhaps a mistake that you don’t regret. The attachment we have to an individual can supersede an overall decrease in our quality of life, and so the love we usually have toward our children means that our choice to bring them into existence has value above and beyond whatever effect they have on our happiness.

This relates to a second point, which is that there’s more to life than happiness. When I say that raising my sons is the best thing I’ve ever done, I’m not saying that they gave me pleasure in any simple day-to-day sense, and I’m not saying that they were good for my marriage. I’m talking about something deeper, having to do with satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. It’s not just me.

When you ask people about their life’s meaning and purpose, parents say that their lives have more meaning than those of nonparents. A study by the social psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that the more time people spent taking care of children, the more meaningful they said their life was—even though they reported that their life was no happier.

Raising children, then, has an uncertain connection to pleasure but may connect to other aspects of a life well lived, satisfying our hunger for attachment, and for meaning and purpose. The writer Zadie Smith puts it better than I ever could, describing having a child as a “strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.” Smith, echoing the thoughts of everyone else who has seriously considered these issues, points out the risk of close attachments:

“Isn’t it bad enough that the beloved, with whom you have experienced genuine joy, will eventually be lost to you? Why add to this nightmare the child, whose loss, if it ever happened, would mean nothing less than your total annihilation?” But this annihilation reflects the extraordinary value of such attachments; as the author Julian Barnes writes of grief, quoting a friend, “It hurts just as much as it is worth.”

By Paul Bloom

Source: Does Having Kids Make You Happy? – The Atlantic

.

More Contents:

. “A review of the relationship among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement” (PDF). Educational Psychology Review. 17

 “Parenting Style as a Moderator of Associations Between Maternal Disciplinary Strategies and Child Well-Being”

“The Influence of Parenting Style on Academic Achievement and Career Path”Day, Nicholas (10 April 2013). “Parental ethnotheories and how parents in America differ from parents everywhere else”. Slate. Retrieved 19 April 2013.[verification needed]

“The Terrible Twos Explained – Safe Kids (UK)”Kenneth R. Ginsburg. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds” (PDF). American Academy of Pediatrics. Archived from the origina

Clearview AI Ordered To Delete All Facial Recognition Data Belonging To Australians

Controversial facial recognition firm Clearview AI has been ordered to destroy all images and facial templates belonging to individuals living in Australia by the country’s national privacy regulator.

Clearview, which claims to have scraped 10 billion images of people from social media sites in order to identify them in other photos, sells its technology to law enforcement agencies. It was trialled by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) between October 2019 and March 2020.

Now, following an investigation, Australia privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), has found that the company breached citizens’ privacy. “The covert collection of this kind of sensitive information is unreasonably intrusive and unfair,” said OAIC privacy commissioner Angelene Falk in a press statement. “It carries significant risk of harm to individuals, including vulnerable groups such as children and victims of crime, whose images can be searched on Clearview AI’s database.”

Said Falk: “When Australians use social media or professional networking sites, they don’t expect their facial images to be collected without their consent by a commercial entity to create biometric templates for completely unrelated identification purposes. The indiscriminate scraping of people’s facial images, only a fraction of whom would ever be connected with law enforcement investigations, may adversely impact the personal freedoms of all Australians who perceive themselves to be under surveillance.”

The investigation into Clearview’s practices by the OAIC was carried out in conjunction with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). However, the ICO has yet to make a decision about the legality of Clearview’s work in the UK. The agency says it is “considering its next steps and any formal regulatory action that may be appropriate under the UK data protection laws.”

As reported by The Guardian, Clearview itself intends to appeal the decision. “Clearview AI operates legitimately according to the laws of its places of business,” Mark Love, a lawyer for the firm BAL Lawyers representing Clearview, told the publication. “Not only has the commissioner’s decision missed the mark on the manner of Clearview AI’s manner of operation, the commissioner lacks jurisdiction.”

Clearview argues that the images it collected were publicly available, so no breach of privacy occurred, and that they were published in the US, so Australian law does not apply.

Around the world, though, there is growing discontent with the spread of facial recognition systems, which threaten to eliminate anonymity in public spaces. Yesterday, Facebook parent company Meta announced it was shutting down the social platform’s facial recognition feature and deleting the facial templates it created for the system. The company cited “growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole.” Meta also recently paid a $650 million settlement after the tech was found to have breached privacy laws in Illinois in the US.

Source: Clearview AI ordered to delete all facial recognition data belonging to Australians – The Verge

.

More Contents:

Pfizer Says Its Vaccine is 90.7% Effective Against Symptomatic Covid-19 In Children Ages 5 To 11

Bridgette Melo, 5, holds the hand of her father, Jim Melo, during her inoculation of one of two reduced 10 ug doses of the Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine during a trial at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina September 28, 2021 in a still image from video. Video taken September 28, 2021. Shawn Rocco/Duke University/Handout via REUTERS NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

In a new document posted ahead of a key meeting of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers, Pfizer says its vaccine is safe and 90.7% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in children ages 5 to 11.

In the trial, which included around 2,000 children, there were three Covid-19 cases among the group that received the vaccine and 16 cases in the placebo group. In the trial, twice as many children received the vaccine as the placebo.

Pfizer/BioNTech are seeking FDA emergency use authorization of a two-dose regimen of their 10-microgram dose for children ages 5 to 11. The two doses would be administered three weeks apart. Last month, Pfizer released details of a Phase 2/3 trial that showed its Covid-19 vaccine was safe and generated a “robust” antibody response in children ages 5 to 11. The trial included 2,268 participants ages 5 to 11.

Participants’ immune responses were measured by looking at neutralizing antibody levels in their blood and comparing those levels to a control group of 16- to 25-year-olds who were given a two-dose regimen with the larger 30-microgram dose. Pfizer said the levels compared well with older people who received the larger dose, demonstrating a “strong immune response in this cohort of children one month after the second dose.”

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet October 26 to discuss whether to recommend the vaccine for authorization for those ages 5 to 11.

If authorized, this would be the first Covid-19 vaccine for younger children. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older and has an EUA for people ages 12 to 15.

The data summarized from this Phase 2/3 study, which is enrolling children 6 months to 11 years of age, was for 2,268participants who were 5 to 11 years of age and received a 10 µg dose level in a two-dose regimen. In the trial, the SARS-CoV-2–neutralizing antibody geometric mean titer (GMT) was 1,197.6 (95% confidence interval [CI, 1106.1, 1296.6]), demonstrating strong immune response in this cohort of children one month after the second dose.

This compares well (was non-inferior) to the GMT of 1146.5 (95% CI: 1045.5, 1257.2) from participants ages 16 to 25 years old, used as the control group for this analysis and who were administered a two-dose regimen of 30 µg. Further, the COVID-19 vaccine was well tolerated, with side effects generally comparable to those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to share these data with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulators as soon as possible. For the United States, the companies expect to include the data in a near-term submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as they continue to accumulate the safety and efficacy data required to file for full FDA approval in this age group.

A request to the EMA to update the EU Conditional Marketing Authorization is also planned. Topline readouts for the other two age cohorts from the trial – children 2-5 years of age and children 6 months to 2 years of age – are expected as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to share these data with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulators as soon as possible. For the United States, the companies expect to include the data in a near-term submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as they continue to accumulate the safety and efficacy data required to file for full FDA approval in this age group.

A request to the EMA to update the EU Conditional Marketing Authorization is also planned. Topline readouts for the other two age cohorts from the trial – children 2-5 years of age and children 6 months to 2 years of age – are expected as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit data from the full Phase 3 trial for scientific peer-reviewed publication.

By:

Source: Pfizer says its vaccine is 90.7% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in children ages 5 to 11 – ABC17NEWS

.

Other Sources:

Patients should always ask their healthcare providers for medical advice about adverse events. Individuals are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Visit http://www.vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967. In addition, side effects can be reported to Pfizer Inc. at www.pfizersafetyreporting.com

or by calling 1-800-438-1985.

Please click here for full Prescribing Information (16+ years of age). Please click here for Fact Sheet for Vaccination Providers (12+ years of age)

Public Assessment Report Authorisation for Temporary Supply COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 (BNT162b2 RNA) concentrate for solution for injection (PDF). Regulation 174 (Report). Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 15 December 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 December 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2021. Burger L (15 March 2020). “BioNTech in China alliance with Fosun over coronavirus vaccine candidate”. Reuters. Archived

The COVID Vaccine For Kids Is Almost Here. Let’s Not Forget The Children Who Made This Possible

This week Pfizer and BioNTech said that their COVID-19 vaccine was safe for children aged 5 to 11. If approved by the FDA for emergency use, it could be ready for children as early as late October. Since the emergence of the delta variant, children have accounted for more than one in five new cases, and more children are hospitalized now, as a result of the coronavirus, than at any other time in the pandemic.

The concern and frustration surrounding relatively slow approval of treatment for kids under 12 years old is nothing new. For decades, kids with cancer have had to wait for trials to improve drug options and improve patient outcomes.

The call to do more, faster, has gone unanswered by drug companies who don’t invest in trials for a small number of unprofitable kids and by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which allocates only 4% of its annual $6.56 billion budget to pediatric cancer and other rare diseases.

Less than 6% of our budget comes from government support. WBUR only exists because readers like you fund our quality reporting. Donate Now.

Trials are a key component to curing cancer and achieving vaccine safety, yet come with a caveat that most parents aren’t willing to risk. It feels good to help mankind, but not at the expense of their child’s growing body.

In 2010, my husband and I agreed to send my 4-year-old daughter to trial to treat her stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. Emily’s oncologist was desperate to enroll kids in the trial and we were desperate to get rid of the cancer. It was the most difficult decision we’ve ever made.

Emily received two back-to-back stem cell transplants. The theory was that two transplants — as opposed to one that was the protocol of care — would be better at killing the tricky neuroblastoma cells that often lurked and caused a relapse.

It would seem a no-brainer to want two opportunities to kill the cancer cells, but it wasn’t. Kids died during the transplants. The amount of chemo they got in one transplant would kill an adult instantly, but kids metabolized it quicker, so they lived, but just barely. Three weeks after being discharged from the first transplant, a kid in the trial would be admitted into the hospital for the second one. If the neuroblastoma didn’t kill them, the trial protocol might.

We wanted to do everything possible to prevent Emily from dying, so we agreed to the trial. We weren’t about to wait around for her cancer.

We watched her claw her way through line infections, thick mucus in her lungs and ICU visits. We doubted whether we made the right decision with every obstacle, especially when she needed surgery to drain seven ounces of liquid from her heart during her second transplant.

We wanted to do everything possible to prevent Emily from dying, so we agreed to the trial. We weren’t about to wait around for her cancer.

Emily almost got kicked out of the trial in the last few months when her damaged kidneys were failing and dipped below the trial parameters. After her tandem stem cell transplants, 21 rounds of radiation, and months of an experimental antibody therapy, she was so close to finishing. Yet somehow, with the help of smart doctors and more medicine, she finished the trial.

After 18 months, the trial was successful in eliminating Emily’s body of neuroblastoma cells, but it stole parts of her she’d never get back.

Emily, who’s now 16, has chronic kidney disease, estrogen levels of a post-menopausal woman, stunted growth, frail hair and a 65% bi-lateral hearing loss from the toxic drugs used during the trial protocol. It’s been the catch-22 of a lifetime: Agreeing to have her participate in a trial that saved her life, but also compromised the quality of it.

About a year after Emily finished treatment, when she was 5, the trial she’d been enrolled in was stopped early. The data showed that the kids who had received two transplants were relapsing less and had a significantly better chance of survival than the kids who had received one transplant. It worked.

As a result, 300 to 400 kids a year who are diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma receive the protocol of care that Emily helped pioneer 10 years ago.

Despite the dark days of treatment and unpredictable secondary effects from chemo, I would make the same decision again, and send her into the trial. Emily would agree, though she longs for the hair that didn’t grow back well after treatment. We know how much worse the alternative could have been. She might not be alive, picking out a homecoming dress and watching Tik Tok videos for hours a day. She might be a statistic.

[The COVID vaccine trials] serve as a gatekeeper to kids’ health from a nation that doesn’t like to wait.

And now a nation of parents looks toward science to approve a COVID-19 vaccine to keep their kids from being statistics, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 225,978 child COVID-19 cases last week, nearly 26% of the weekly reported cases. It’s the second-highest total of new diagnoses among children over the course of the pandemic.

As desperate as we are for our children to get their COVID-19 vaccines, the trial pharmaceutical companies are running — and the in-depth data analysis the FDA undertakes — exists to protect millions of kids from adverse effects that can’t be predicted. It serves as a gatekeeper to kids’ health from a nation that doesn’t like to wait.

When the FDA approves a vaccine for kids — and they will — let’s acknowledge the kids who, like Emily, answered the call. They’re the unsung heroes in getting a nation back to health.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

By: Amy McHugh

Cognoscenti contributor
Amy McHugh is a high school teacher on Cape Cod where she lives with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two goldendoodles. She’s helped raise over $750,000 for neuroblastoma research at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic.

Source: The COVID Vaccine For Kids Is Almost Here. Let’s Not Forget The Children Who Made This Possible | Cognoscenti

.

Related Contents:

The Psychological Toll of Wanting Your Kid To Be Perfect

It’s called “other-oriented perfectionism,” and it can have a negative effect on children. Here’s why it happens.

Joliene Trujillo-Fuenning, who lives in Denver, Colorado with her two kids, ages 3 and 22 months, has some pretty clear perfectionist tendencies. If she sends an email with a typo in it, she says, “It will drive me nuts for a solid week or two.” After her husband cleans the bathroom, she has to fight the urge to criticize. (Sometimes she’ll just clean it again.)

And when it comes to her 3-year-old’s education, Trujillo-Fuenning says, “I have been very much struggling with the fact that she doesn’t want to write letters,” and finds herself thinking, “You are supposed to be at this point by three and a half or four, and if you don’t do it, you’re never going to.”

What Trujillo-Fuenning struggles with is something called other-oriented perfectionism. (You may have seen a shorter piece I wrote about the phenomenon for the Atlantic back in July.) Other-oriented perfectionism bears similarity to self-oriented perfectionism, when a person puts tremendous pressure on themselves to be perfect and then self-flagellates when they can’t be.

It’s also a little bit like socially prescribed perfectionism, where one internalizes the need to be perfect thanks to perceived pressure from others. The big difference is that with other-oriented perfectionism, unrealistic expectations are directed at, well, others.

When a parent sets exacting standards for their child and assumes a critical attitude, it can change how they parent (to their child’s detriment) and leave the parent bitter, resentful, and sometimes even wishing they’d never had children. That’s particularly problematic in light of new research suggesting that both parental expectations and parental criticism have been on the rise.

The impulse behind child-oriented perfectionism comes mostly from early life experiences and societal forces outside individuals’ control, but understanding — and interventions — can help thwart it, improving the wellbeing of both parent and child.

Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a patient roster made up mostly of young doctors, some of whom are the targets of other-oriented perfectionists who are “looking around and wondering why everybody [they] work with is incompetent.” For a supervisor like that, she said, “There is going to be an over-reliance on control, especially wanting to control how people do things.”

The other-oriented perfectionist seems self-assured. They always know the best way to do things and everything would be splendid if only others weren’t so flawed.

“On the surface it looks like grandiosity,” said Thomas Curran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science, “but at root, it’s really a profound insecurity about place in the world and whether you’re worth something.” The other-oriented perfectionist’s judgment, he said, is actually just “my way of projecting the things that I dislike in myself onto other people.”

People become other-oriented perfectionists in a variety of ways discussed in the book “Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment.” Oftentimes a cocktail of other types of perfectionism is to blame. Trujillo-Fuenning worries about her daughter’s progress because she wants the best for her, but there’s something more than that.

“I had a friend who pointed out that her language, her enunciation, her knowledge is pretty advanced for her age,” she explained, “And immediately, I had this sense of like, ‘Ha!’ It had nothing to do with me! Yet you still have a part of your brain that’s like, ‘She speaks well. That means I did my job right.

If she reads early, I did my job right.'” The pressure Trujillo-Fuenning feels to be perfect requires being — and being perceived as — a perfect parent. “How you’re doing as a parent is a reflection of who you are,” she said, “There’s no separation there in my head.”

In a paper published in 2020, Konrad Piotrowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at SWPS University in Poland, reported that both mothers and fathers there “tend to accept to a greater extent the mistakes and ‘imperfection’ of their children than those of their partner.” But sometimes they don’t.

John Lockner’s experience supports that idea. He was a stay-at-home dad for years and told me, “I kind of still am,” since he works part-time and spends the rest of it with his two teenage sons. “It’s definitely a struggle not to be on them all the time,” he said, but he knows that’s more about him than them. “I never wanted to be a manager, because I know I would expect my employees to do their best, and it would be very hard for me when they don’t,” he told me.

As one of just a handful of dads involved at their old school, Lockner said, “I felt this pressure to be better, and because of that my kids needed to be better.” With up-to-the-minute access to their assignments and grades through an online portal, he’d issue reminders on the drive to school: “You have to be sure to check on that and make sure it was turned in” or “You’re going to ask for that extra credit, right?” And he’d grill them on test results as soon as they got into the car at pickup.

But now, he said, “I’m kind of working on myself, to let some of that go.” What seems to be the key determinant is which relationship—the romantic one or the parental one—is more strongly associated with the parent’s self-esteem. Those who hang their identity on their parental role, like Trujillo-Fuenning, are more likely to experience child-oriented perfectionism than those who do not, Piotrowski theorized.

The impact of other-oriented perfectionism on children

That’s likely a good thing for his kids. Curran, the British perfectionism researcher, looked at a questionnaire that’s been given to cohorts of young people for decades. He and his team found that current college students perceive that their parents were more expectant than past generations — which is problematic, because studies (old and new) tie a caregiver having performance-oriented goals to controlling, critical parenting.

Though the research is murky, because different forms of perfectionism both overlap and function in distinct ways, children of parents who are perfectionists likely have higher odds of developing psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. Even when the impact falls short of clinical classification, children whose parents expect them to be perfect often grow up in homes characterized by conflict and tension. “It’s going to be a pressure cooker,” Curran told me.

The end result is often another generation of perfectionists. A 2017 study of 159 father-daughter dyads found a tie between “controlling fathers who demand perfection” and perfectionist daughters. And Curran’s own research has found that as parents’ expectations and criticism have increased, so too have rates of adolescent perfectionism.

We make jokes about perfectionism. (Did you hear the one about the perfectionist who walked into a bar? Apparently, it wasn’t set high enough.) But it’s a truly stressful way to live, Dr. Dattilo said, “Always striving to prove that you are capable, to prove that you are worthy, prove that you are successful based on other people’s evaluations.”

It should come as no surprise then, that there are, in Curran’s words, “huge, uncharacteristically strong correlations” between perfectionism and psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and anorexia.

“The data’s never that clean,” he told me. Gayani DeSilva knows what it feels like to be one of those data points. “My parents really did put a lot of pressure on me as a kid to be perfect,” recalled the child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices in Southern California. “I had to have straight As, couldn’t have an A-minus.”

When she carried a D in Calculus at one point, “I was so afraid that I actually thought that my parents were going to kill me.” Now looking back with a therapist’s eye, she said, “I couldn’t imagine them actually physically harming me, I just knew that I was gonna die.”

She internalized their exacting standards, “There was just no room for anything other than what they expected.” And when she couldn’t meet them, she said, “I faced all this guilt, like, ‘Why couldn’t I do it?'”

Josh McKivigan, a behavioral health therapist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sees an impact at both ends of the economic spectrum. For kids of highly educated, well-off parents, he said, “You’d see them well put together, amazing grades, but behind the scenes, they’re barely holding it together. The only type of school they feel is acceptable is an Ivy League. They say things like, ‘I couldn’t imagine going to UCLA.'”

McKivigan also works with a refugee population. With these kids, he sees pressure to make something of a parent’s dangerous immigration journey. They end up saying, “I gotta make this right. I can’t let them down,” McKivigan told me.

But some kids don’t develop perfectionism of their own, instead responding to a parent’s pressure by rejecting their goals. After all, if someone is impossible to please, why bother trying?Nicole Coomber, Ph.D., an assistant dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said research on motivation explains why.

“Autonomy is an important piece of this where you have to actually buy into whatever the goal is,” she notes. Requiring that a child practice piano for hours each day when they’d rather be playing soccer “can really backfire,” she added. Kids can end up feeling like their parent’s project or product — and push back by quitting. No matter how much bravado accompanies that move, there’s often also a sense of having let themselves and their parents down.

DeSilva failed her first year of medical school, she said, “because I just didn’t know how to ask for help.” After a car accident, she quit residency and then spent two years in therapy: “Once I was able to admit, ‘I’m not perfect,’ I was successful at pretty much everything I wanted to do, and I didn’t have to be anxious about it. I knew I could do it, whereas before, when I had to be perfect, I was really insecure.”

After she worked through her perfectionism, she said, “I was trying for my own standard, my own goals, my own desires, instead of somebody else’s standard for me.”

Other-oriented perfectionism is bad for parents too, but they can change

Child-oriented perfectionist tendencies aren’t just bad for kids. Trujillo-Fuenning started to feel burned out by her high standards in the parenting realm. The cumulative effect of a thousand little maximizations, like “trying to make sure they were eating the right things every meal,” became overwhelming and depleting. “To be honest, that’s part of why I went back to work,” she told me.

In his 2020 study, Piotrowski found that parents who target their children with other-oriented perfectionism tend to display higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction with parenthood, and feeling so burdened by the parental role that they regret parenthood entirely. He explained, “For mothers characterized by increased other-oriented perfectionism, family life is probably associated with many frustrations and stress, hence the focus on alternative visions of themselves that seem to be better than [being] a parent.”

When she starts trying to work on literacy again, Trujillo-Fuenning said, “I have to pull back and remind myself, if she’s fighting you, just let it go.” The same thing goes for micromanaging her kids’ appearance. “I’m catching my own insecurities of like, ‘You don’t look well put together. People are going to look at you and think I’m not taking care of you.'” But to avoid acting on those impulses requires “a constant mental check,” she told me.

Every now and then Lockner’s wife would say, “You’re being too hard on them. You are expecting too much.” But that doesn’t seem to be what made him change. His sons are at an all-boys school now, and, Lockner said, “Being around other groups of dads made a difference. Listening to how they act, and how their kids are, made me think, ‘Maybe I can ease up a little. My kids really are pretty good.'”

This sort of shift is what Curran sees happening in society as a whole—only in reverse.Other-oriented perfectionist parents aren’t the only ones ratcheting up expectations and pressure. Some parents don’t want to push, Curran said, “but they feel like they have to in this world where elite college is harder to access, where you basically have an economy where the middle class is downwardly mobile with increasing costs of living and stagnated income, and you’ve got chronic and increasing inequality.”

And the pressure can be even more intense for parents like Eric L. Heard, author of “Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.” He described feeling “the need for immediate feedback” from his son’s teachers: “I always held a fear that I would not address some problem and he would head down a well-worn road of destruction” for Black men, he wrote. “My mind was haunted by the crippling thought of how I would be judged …. I would wear a permanent brand … a large white D for being a deadbeat dad who couldn’t save his son.”

If you’re a parent ruminating on the odds stacked against your child, it is rational to drive them to work harder, achieve more, and be better. Other parents react the same way, the result of which is a frenzied, fearful “rug rat race.” Once that starts to kick in, Curran said, “it’s really hard to stop, at a societal level. It creates an echo chamber where everybody’s engaging in unhealthy behaviors and no one wins.”

He doesn’t just mean that we all lose when we succumb to perfectionism. It also just plain doesn’t work. “Everybody’s engaging in this frantic upward comparison, and no one gains an advantage,” he said. “We just move the average of what’s expected further and further. It’s looking bad.”

But individuals can push back against a trend of overwhelmed young people and parents who, like the old Lockner, feel no choice but to be “the bad guy.” Now that he’s backed off, he said, “It’s easier on me. It’s easier on them.” They do more for themselves, and “they seem more willing to do stuff if I’m not on them all the time.” Truth be told, he likes himself more now.

Therapists can help their clients get there. Dr. Dattilo would tell an other-oriented perfectionist they need to believe it when someone says, “I’m doing the best I can.” Parents can interrogate their perfectionism in psychotherapy: Why is having a perfect child so important to me? Where did this need come from? And cognitive-behavioral therapists push people to fact-check their anxiety: What level of pressure is really necessary to prepare your child to live a good life? Is parental pressure truly the most effective way to forestall your fears? What will happen if you just back off?

When it came to parenting her son, DeSilva, the perfectionist-turned-psychiatrist, said she made a conscious decision. “I was going to raise him to have his own ideas and his own set of standards and really, for me to learn about and help him develop his strengths. And also, to really be comfortable with his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” That puts her at odds with her own parents. When it comes to her son’s homework, they think, “It’s your job.

You have to make sure his homework is done,” she said. His grandparents even tell her to fix it for him “so it’s correct.” Instead, she explained to her son the consequences of not doing homework, or not doing it well, and let him decide. “He didn’t like it that his teacher was upset with him. So the next time he did his homework, he did it as best he could.”

Tying it all together

Yet individual parents can’t reverse course alone. Putting aside economic inequality for a minute, Curran said, “I think if the pressures of things like standardized testing — for young people to perform perfectly in school at such a young age — could be recalibrated downwards” it would take pressure off parents too. He called online grade portals “even scarier.”

If kids were just allowed to learn, to be, without all the tracking, assessing, and ranking, maybe more parents would feel like they can afford to break — and encourage their kids to break — the link between one’s accomplishments and one’s worth.

As Curran talked, I realized that much of the ground we’ve covered in my Are We There Yet? column is more related than I’d thought. Pressure on parents, including around the “one right way” to parent, produces intensive parenting and lack of autonomy for kids, and it also contributes to parents’ perfectionism and even abusive behavior, all of which lead to faltering mental health in adolescents, often with their own perfectionism as the mechanism. It’s a perfect storm for stressed out, sexless parents who worry they don’t measure up raising stressed out, helpless kids who worry they don’t measure up. To borrow Curran’s words, “It’s all interconnected.”

By Gail Cornwall

Gail Cornwall works as a mother and writer in San Francisco. Connect with Gail on Twitter, or read more at gailcornwall.comMORE FROM Gail Cornwall

Source: The psychological toll of wanting your kid to be “perfect” | Salon.com

.

Related Contents:

Child Development: Middle Childhood

Securing attachment: The shifting medicalisation of attachment and attachment disorders

Evolutionary Developmental Psychology: A New Tool for Better Understanding Human Ontogeny

Activity Systems Analysis Methods: Understanding Complex Learning Environments

Developmental psychology: History of the field

Developmental Psychology Studies Human Development Across the Lifespan

Child Development: Preschoolers

Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives

Principles of Developmental Psychology

Maternal Employment and Child Development: A Fresh Look Using Newer Methods

Separation Anxiety in Children

Systems in development: Motor skill acquisition facilitates three-dimensional object completion

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

Physical Growth of Infants and Children – Children’s Health Issues

Dynamic Systems Theory and the Complexity of Change

Freud and the Psychodynamic Perspective | Introduction to Psychology

Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes

Mapping brain maturation

Disturbances of Attachment and Parental Psychopathology in Early Childhood

Malnutrition at age 3 years and lower cognitive ability at age 11 years

Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development