Friday, July 23, 2021

COVID-19 Lockdowns/shelter-in-place policies in 43 countries: These authors think that, following the implementation of SIP policies, excess mortality increased

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Responses on Excess Mortality. Virat Agrawal, Jonathan H. Cantor, Neeraj Sood & Christopher M. Whaley. NBER Working Paper 28930, June 2021. DOI 10.3386/w28930

Abstract: As a way of slowing COVID-19 transmission, many countries and U.S. states implemented shelter-in-place (SIP) policies. However, the effects of SIP policies on public health are a priori ambiguous as they might have unintended adverse effects on health. The effect of SIP policies on COVID-19 transmission and physical mobility is mixed. To understand the net effects of SIP policies, we measure the change in excess deaths following the implementation of SIP policies in 43 countries and all U.S. states. We use an event study framework to quantify changes in the number of excess deaths after the implementation of a SIP policy. We find that following the implementation of SIP policies, excess mortality increases. The increase in excess mortality is statistically significant in the immediate weeks following SIP implementation for the international comparison only and occurs despite the fact that there was a decline in the number of excess deaths prior to the implementation of the policy. At the U.S. state-level, excess mortality increases in the immediate weeks following SIP introduction and then trends below zero following 20 weeks of SIP implementation. We failed to find that countries or U.S. states that implemented SIP policies earlier, and in which SIP policies had longer to operate, had lower excess deaths than countries/U.S. states that were slower to implement SIP policies. We also failed to observe differences in excess death trends before and after the implementation of SIP policies based on pre-SIP COVID-19 death rates.

Rolf Degen summarizing... There is a tragic tendency for romantic relationships to run out of steam in the long term, and psychological interventions have proved incapable of reversing the "loss of positives"

When the Loss of Positives feels Negative: Exploring the Loss of Positive Experiences in Committed Couples. Danielle M. Weber, Donald H. Baucom. Current Opinion in Psychology, July 22 2021.


• Positive experiences in committed couples can decrease over time.

• Positives can decrease for various reasons, including increased external demands.

• Interventions from Cognitive-Behavioral Couple Therapy can enhance positives.

Abstract: Despite romantic relationships being characterized by high positives (e.g., enjoyable activities, positive feelings) early in commitment, many couples experience a loss of positives over time. However, interventions are typically not as effective at enhancing positives as they are at reducing negatives (e.g., hostile conflict). Thus, it is important to understand why positives decrease and how to use interventions to enhance positives optimally. In this article, we present how the field has evolved to (a) heighten focus on positives independent of negatives, (b) identify trajectories of positives over time, and (c) clarify major factors which predict loss of positives. From a Cognitive-Behavioral Couple Therapy perspective, we offer therapeutic strategies that may hold promise for enhancing positives in relationships.

Keywords: positives in relationshipscouplescouple interventionscognitive behavior therapy


Against this optimistic abstract, I prefer Rolf Degen's take: There is a tragic tendency for romantic relationships to run out of steam in the long term, and psychological interventions have proved incapable of reversing the "loss of positives"

Princess culture is criticized for contributing to gender stereotypes & poor body esteem; but (at least) modern princess engagement was associated with lower adherence to norms of hegemonic masculinity & higher body esteem

Princess Power: Longitudinal Associations Between Engagement With Princess Culture in Preschool and Gender Stereotypical Behavior, Body Esteem, and Hegemonic Masculinity in Early Adolescence. Sarah M. Coyne, Jennifer Ruh Linder, McCall Booth, Savannah Keenan-Kroff, Jane E. Shawcroft, Chongming Yang. Child Development, July 20 2021.

Abstract: Princess culture is criticized for contributing to gender stereotypes and poor body esteem, however, there is little longitudinal research examining these claims. This study examines associations between engagement with princess culture during early childhood and gender stereotypes, body esteem, and adherence to hegemonic masculinity in early adolescence. Participants included 307 children (51% female, Mage = 4.83 years, 87% White) who completed questionnaires at two time points, 5 years apart. The results indicated that early engagement with princess culture was not associated with later adherence to female gender stereotypes. However, princess engagement was associated with lower adherence to norms of hegemonic masculinity and higher body esteem. Socioeconomic status and gender moderated the results. Effect sizes were small to moderate. The changing nature of Disney princesses is discussed in the context of gender development across childhood.

Orgasms from clitoral stimulation seem to have a second-class quality for some women, although there is no evidence that these orgasms feel like less pleasureable

The Influence of Types of Stimulation and Attitudes to Clitoral Self-stimulation on Female Sexual and Orgasm Satisfaction: a Cross-sectional Study. Madita Hoy, Katharina van Stein, Bernhard Strauss & Katja Brenk-Franz. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Jul 21 2021.


Introduction: Societal assumptions and individual myths that define vaginal penetration as normal sexuality can affect the sexual pleasure of varied sexual activities. Although women orgasm much more easily through direct clitoral stimulation than through vaginal intercourse, many couples desire the latter. The purpose of this study is to investigate how orgasms from different types of stimulation with a partner affect sexual satisfaction and orgasm satisfaction in cisgender women. Also, the attitude of women to stimulate their clitoris themselves to reach orgasm during sex with their partner will be included.

Methods: Two independent surveys (N = 388 and N = 555) were conducted online in 2016 and 2020.

Results: Regression analyses showed that orgasm consistency through sexual intercourse had a stronger influence on orgasm satisfaction and sexual satisfaction than orgasm consistency through oral sex, stimulation by the partner’s hand, or self-stimulation. Positive thoughts and feelings about self-stimulation of the clitoris during sex with the partner showed only little effect, but in some cases, they were even negatively related to the reported satisfaction.

Conclusions: The results indicate that the common misconception about sexuality, that it is normal for women to experience orgasms during penile-vaginal intercourse, influences the subjective evaluation of one’s own sexuality. Orgasms from clitoral stimulation seem to have a second-class quality for some women, although there is no evidence that these orgasms feel like less pleasureable.

Policy Implication: Rigid assumptions about what normal sexuality should look like should be publicly addressed and discussed in sex education classes.

How many parents regret having children and how it is linked to their personality and health: Two studies with national samples in Poland

Piotrowski K (2021) How many parents regret having children and how it is linked to their personality and health: Two studies with national samples in Poland. PLoS ONE 16(7): e0254163, Jul 21 2021.

Abstract: Surveys conducted over the last few years on representative samples in the US and Germany suggest that the percentage of parents who regret having children is approximately 17–8%. In none of these studies did the researchers attempt a detailed examination of this group of parents from the perspective of their psychological functioning. In the present article, two studies based on large, national samples (N = 1175 and N = 1280), one of which was a representative sample of young Poles, are presented. The results obtained show that the percentage of parents who regret parenthood is higher in Poland than in the US or Germany, and that parents who regret having children are characterized by a higher level of adverse childhood experiences, have poorer psychological and somatic health, are more vulnerable to social evaluation, and experience strong parental identity crisis and parental burnout. Regretting parenthood also turns out to be associated with the parent’s financial situation and marital status, and with having children with special needs. The results indicate that regretting becoming a parent is an important social and psychological issue that should become an object of interest for researchers from various disciplines and for social policy authorities.


As a result of a decrease in fertility in developed countries, governments have started to take various actions to increase the number of children born. The situation is no different in Poland, where the fertility rate is one of the lowest among the EU countries [42]. However, when pursuing the aim of increasing the number of children born, we often forget that parenthood is a difficult and stressful task, and that young people, who are those who most frequently become parents, sometimes fail to cope with this new reality successfully. In order to plan support for young parents skillfully, both at the level of national policy and in relation to individual support provided by specialists, it is necessary to conduct an initial diagnosis of the number of parents for whom the realization of the parental role poses serious problems. Among the difficulties that can be experienced by a person who has decided to have a child, one of the most serious is to arrive at the conclusion that it was a bad decision. Because one cannot withdraw from parenthood at one’s own request, and because regretting parenthood can lead to mental problems and negative attitudes towards children [18], this should be an area of particular interest for social researchers, including psychologists. Unfortunately, our knowledge about the prevalence of regretting parenthood and about its causes has, so far, been very limited. The studies presented here, based upon the analysis of two large Polish samples, one of which was a representative sample, aimed to fill this gap.

Earlier survey studies, conducted on an American [1] and a German [12] sample, estimated that the percentage of parents who claimed that if they could make a choice again they would not decide to have children was between 7 and 8%. However, the results obtained in Study 1 and Study 2 indicate that this percentage may be higher in Poland, perhaps even 50% higher. As a result, the predictions formulated in Hypothesis 1 can be considered to be only partially confirmed. In Study 2, the percentage of parents who regretted having children was slightly lower than in Study 1 (10.7% and 13.6%, respectively), but it is the result of Study 1 that needs to be treated as more trustworthy, because the first research sample was more representative; in the second sample, there was a slight overrepresentation of well-educated individuals and of those with a healthy financial situation, which could result in a lower percentage of people who regretted parenthood. The results obtained point to two issues. First of all, it seems that, regardless of the country in which the study is conducted, one can expect to find parents who think that having a child was a bad decision. Additionally, it turned out once again that the number of such people is so large that neither the individuals who shape social policy in a given country nor researchers can fail to recognize this issue. Secondly, in the Polish population, the percentage of people who regret parenthood is higher than in the other populations examined so far. The research methodology applied was very similar to that used in the German study, so that it seems that the measurement method could not have been responsible for these differences. Unlike Germany, Poland has one of the strictest anti-abortion regimes in Europe. Abortion can only be performed when the mother’s health or life are endangered, when a serious defect/disease in the foetus threatens its life or the life or health of the mother, or when the pregnancy is the result of crime. Consequently, in Germany there are over 100,000 abortions performed each year, whereas in Poland the number is around 1000 [43]. This may mean that in Poland, the number of people who become parents and who are not convinced that this decision is the right one is higher because of the lack of any other option. Another factor that distinguishes Poland from the other two countries mentioned earlier is the level of economic development. Both the German study and the studies presented in this article indicate that one of the factors that increases the probability of regretting parenthood is the poor financial situation of the family. Poland, despite making a gigantic leap over the last thirty years since the Communist dictatorship was overthrown, is still a country in which incomes (even when purchasing power parity is taken into account) are considerably lower than in Germany or in the US, which can result in a higher percentage of parents for whom having a child is too great a financial burden; this may have had an effect on the results obtained. In Study 1 only 32% of the parents surveyed said that they had no financial problems at all; in Study 2 it was 39%, which may indicate the scale of the problem. The obtained results are also in accordance with the recent studies suggesting that Polish parents are among the most at risk of parental burnout in Europe [40] which lead to the conclusion that further intercultural studies on regretting parenthood, conducted on national samples, need to be conducted, so that the factors indicated here (i.e. abortion law and economy) can be fully verified.

In the study, there were two demographic factors that seemed to lead to the greatest increase in the risk of regretting parenthood. The first was the aforementioned poor financial situation of the parents, while the second one was being a single parent. In the case of single parents (which pertains to both women and men), their evaluation of parenthood as something that should not have happened can result from the fact that some of them, after splitting up with the other parent, cannot count on sufficient support. We should also remember that one of the most frequent sources of regret among adults are decisions associated with romantic relationships, which has been observed by Dijkstra and Barelds [7]. The results of the present study suggest that regretting decisions from the romantic domain may also translate into a negative evaluation of becoming a parent, and that sometimes a parent starts to regret not only that s/he entered into a relationship with a given person, but also that s/he had a child with this individual.

Interesting, and in places even surprising, results were obtained concerning gender. Among women and men, the percentage of parents regretting having children was similar, which is in line with research conducted in Germany [12]. On the other hand, many differences were observed between men and women in the samples studied. Women experienced more depressive symptoms, anxiety, vegetative symptoms, but were also characterized by a more stable sense of parental identity. On the other hand, men were characterized by more intense traumatic experiences in childhood and stronger parental burnout and parental identity crisis. Thus, although the situation of women-mothers and men-fathers differs, this does not translate into visible differences in terms of their greater or lesser propensity to regret parenthood. This observation may imply that regretting parenthood among mothers and fathers has different causes, which is a very promising area for future research.

In terms of gender, the finding of stronger parental burnout among fathers in Study 2 is surprising. Previous research on parental burnout suggests that women experience this syndrome to a greater extent [2544], which was also observed in research previously conducted in Poland [40]. What distinguishes the parents who took part in Study 2 from other studies on parental burnout is their young age (women M = 26.00, men M = 26.30). In earlier studies, the samples of parents were usually older by about ten years. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider the possibility that among the youngest parents, in the period of emerging adulthood (aged 18–30), they may be the fathers who experience stronger parental burnout. This is an issue worth further analysis in the future.

Regardless of the fact that these particular demographic factors turned out to be connected with regretting parenthood, which remains in accord with the predictions formulated in Hypothesis 2, we would not be justified in claiming that regretting parenthood is typical of individuals in a poor financial situation or of divorced people. Despite the fact that a slightly higher percentage of parents who regretted parenthood could also be observed among the parents who had children with special needs, this difference was only 5%, which it is difficult to consider as a strong effect. Conversely, the results obtained clearly indicate that parents who regret parenthood come from all layers of society: they are present among the wealthy and the well-educated as well among the poor and those with only primary education, some of them have children with special needs and some of them do not, and some of them are married or in informal relationships and some of them do not have a partner. In line with the predictions included in Hypothesis 3, it seems that, to be able to obtain a good understanding of a parent who regrets having a child, it is necessary to refer to factors at the psychological level [see also 45].

The results of Study 1 justify a search in childhood for the conditionings of regretting parenthood. It turns out that parents who regret having children were more often raised in an environment characterized by violence and rejection. Such conditions in childhood lead to changes in the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, increasing the frequency and intensity of stress experiences, and contributing to impairments in cognitive functions that underlie self-regulation and, in consequence, to psychopathology [46]. This accords with the results of Study 1, as we could observe that the parents who regretted having children also manifested more symptoms associated with anxiety or depression, or somatic symptoms. Transition to parenthood and raising children is a great burden for almost all parents, and successful adaptation to this role requires many resources [47]. In the case of individuals who have behind them a childhood marked by traumatic experiences and problems with mental and somatic health, the task of being a parent can be too burdensome, can offer few rewards, and can yield no satisfaction [48], and, as demonstrated by the results obtained, this can also lead to regretting the decision to become a parent.

In accord with the observations about adverse childhood experiences and mental health (Study 1) are the observations pertaining to differences between the compared groups in respect of perfectionistic concerns (Study 2), which makes it possible to bind the two studies together theoretically. Strong fear of external evaluation and of not meeting expectations, which turned out to be higher among the parents who regretted having a child, are usually also a consequence of a dysfunctional rearing environment [3549], and perfectionistic concerns themselves are an important predictor of psychopathology. The fact that parents who regret parenthood have greater sensibility to external evaluation accords with the observations made by Donath [14] that one of the factors that stands behind this phenomenon can be the social and cultural pressure to have children. Individuals who find it more difficult to resist this pressure can more often make the decision to become a parent under the influence of social norms and not personal needs, which can increase the risk of future regrets about making this decision.

The moment of becoming a parent marks the beginning of one of the most important processes in adulthood, namely forming a stable parental identity [29]. The development of parental identity is based on comparing one’s own experiences in the realization of the parental role with one’s expectations, needs, and values. A satisfactory course through this process leads to identification with the decisions one has made and to defining oneself through the prism of these decisions. In Study 2, it was observed, however, that the individuals who regretted having children experienced strong and marked parental identity diffusion. They identified with the role of a parent only to a low extent, and they also had a much weaker motivation to consider issues connected with parenthood and to search for deeper information about it. In this group of parents, we could observe doubts about how to realize the parental role and a conviction that parenthood does not fit them. Piotrowski [17] suggested that regretting parenthood can be the final effect of disturbances in the development of parental identity, although he did not provide conclusive proof of that. Nevertheless, the results of Study 2 seem to corroborate that this may be possible. In turn, Schrooyen, Beyers and Soenens [30] have suggested that disturbances in parental identity lead to parental burnout. This thesis has also been confirmed by the results we obtained. On the basis of the theoretical assumptions presented by Piotrowski [29] and Schrooyen, Beyers and Soenens [30], we can presume that difficulties in forming a stable parental identity after entering the parental role can be an introduction to parental burnout which, in turn, can lead to regrets about ever becoming a parent which makes it important to further study the relationships between these different forms of disturbances in parenting. There are many studies that have shown that chronic difficulties in forming a stable sense of identity are closely related to mental health issues [50], and that a sense of parental identity is no exception here [32]. Therefore, it seems that the situation of parents who regret having children is characterized by many difficulties of both a psychological and a social nature, and this needs to be taken into consideration in the process of developing preventive and supportive actions.

Limitations and recommendations for future studies.

Despite yielding a great deal of new information about the situation of parents who regret parenthood, the results obtained need to be looked at in the light of certain limitations of the research that was conducted. First of all, the method applied to measure regretting parenthood was relatively simple, and it did not provide an opportunity to capture differences in the level of this phenomenon. Using a more complete picture of parental regret is recommended in the future studies. The parents in the investigation had to take a stance on one of the two sides of the question, and could not specify to what extent they regretted parenthood, which, as demonstrated by the survey conducted in Germany [12], could be a source of interesting data. Secondly, the conclusions formulated in the present article are based on the cross-sectional approach and on a single measurement. Thus, they do not take into account changes that may appear in a parent’s perception of parenthood. In the future, it would be advisable to conduct a longitudinal study in order to evaluate the extent to which regretting parenthood is stable over time. The longitudinal design would also provide useful information about the direction of causality between mental health issues, parental identity, parental burnout and parental regrets. Thirdly, only self-description methods, pertaining solely to the parent her-/himself, were applied in the two studies. In future studies, it would be worth considering different sources of information about the parent (e.g. information provided by the person’s partner) to verify whether the person’s subjective sense of regretting parenthood is also connected with this person being perceived differently by other people. Fourthly, the study focused on the situation of the parent her-/himself, failing to include the relationship with the child. Since it has been demonstrated by East, Chien, and Barber [18] that regretting parenthood is associated with harsh parenting, in future studies a deeper analysis of how regretting parenthood influences the development of a child should be conducted. An analysis should also be undertaken into how the national regulations on abortion availability influence the percentage of parents who regret becoming parents, which requires broad, multicultural comparisons.

Among the limitations of the conducted research, the cause-and-effect relationships require particular commitment from the researchers. The relationships between perfectionism, identity, burnout, and parenting regret described above are based mainly on theoretical assumptions [17283050]. As yet, there have been no longitudinal studies published of perfectionism and parental burnout and sense of parental identity, nor are there longitudinal data on parenting regret and the psychological characteristics examined in this study. Therefore, any assertions about potential causal relationships should be treated as hypotheses for future longitudinal studies. Increasing regret resulting from having children may affect parent functioning [18], and it is not precluded that it might also lead to an increase in parental burnout, identity crisis, and perfectionist concerns. Another area requiring in-depth longitudinal research is the relationship between childhood traumatic experiences and regretting parenthood. From the research presented here, we can only infer a correlation between these experiences, but the mechanism behind this link is still unknown. Given the limited research interest to date in the topic of regretting parenthood, it appears that this area of research may yet provide many breakthroughs.