Sunday, February 26, 2023

Black-White Differences in Parental Happiness

Black-White Differences in Parental Happiness. Jennifer Augustine, Mia Brantley. Socius, February 23, 2023.

Abstract: Lower levels of happiness among Blacks compared with Whites are well documented, as are lower levels of happiness among parents compared with nonparents. Yet it remains unclear whether the parenting happiness gap is larger among Blacks compared with Whites. Drawing on the General Social Survey (2010–2018), the authors investigate this question. The authors find that White mothers reported less happiness compared with their White female nonparent counterparts, but contrary to research highlighting the profound challenges of parenting for Black women, a parental happiness gap among Black women was not observed. Among Black men, parents reported a much higher probability of being very happy than their nonparent counterparts, whereas White fathers’ happiness was no different from that of their male counterparts without children. These findings are discussed in view of stereotypes about Black mothers and fathers, their resilience to stressors such as racism and discrimination, and emerging research on the salience of fatherhood for Black men.


Race differences in happiness among Americans are well documented, as are differences in happiness between parents and nonparents (Herbst and Ifcher 2016Iceland and Ludwig-Dehm 2019). Yet few studies have aimed to bridge these literatures by examining whether differences in parental happiness are the same across racial groups. This oversight is noteworthy, given the various strands of research highlighting the ways that parenting creates additional challenges for Black parents compared with White parents. It is also surprising, given the broader literature on parental happiness and its emphasis on how demographic factors moderate the “costs” of parenthood (Nomaguchi and Milkie 2020), as well as the profundity of race in stratifying other forms of well-being. Thus, in this study, we take steps to fill this important gap in knowledge by drawing on a seminal source of research on happiness, the GSS, to investigate racial disparities in the parental happiness gap for men and women. Our findings provide several fresh insights, several of which ran counter to our expectations.
To begin, we found that the happiness gap among parents compared with nonparents was observed for White women, but not Black women. These results suggest that despite the challenges that Black mothers face—such as stereotyping around motherhood, fears around their children’s well-being, and the need to contend with hostile environments (Dow 2019Elliott and Aseltine 2013)—they may be exceptionally resilient in terms of their happiness. This pattern is consistent with other research on resiliency among Black Americans. For example, numerous studies find that Blacks suffer no worse mental health disorders than Whites, a phenomenon sometimes called the Black-White mental health paradox (Erving, Thomas, and Frazier 2019). Although the reasons for this phenomenon remain unclear, some have argued that Blacks promote a type of racial socialization that celebrates overcoming adversity and a strong sense of group identity, both of which may enhance the positive emotional aspects of parenting, despite its challenges. In further support of this view, studies have suggested that Blacks are more likely to view themselves than Whites as role models to their children (Hart et al. 2001). Doing so in the face of challenges may thus enhance meaning and the positive emotional experience Black mothers derive from parenting in ways that help offset some (albeit not all, given that Black women in general reported less happiness than White women) of the factors that would potentially undermine Black mothers’ well-being. Other explanations for why we did not observe lower levels of happiness among Black mothers compared with Black nonmothers include that Black mothers often experience high levels of community support-in contrast to mothers in White communities, which embrace a more individualist approach to family life (Collins 2002Dow 2019)-which may promote greater subjective well-being. Black mothers also spend more time in the company of their children (Nomaguchi et al. 2022) than White mothers, which has been associated with greater happiness among parents (Negraia and Augustine 2020). More broadly, these findings also indicate that parental status does not play a role in Black-White differences in women’s happiness.
For men, we found that parental status also did not differentiate the happiness of Whites, perhaps because White fathers share less responsibility for more time-intensive and stressful caregiving than their partners (Musick et al. 2016). An alternative set of explanations, which are informed by and evoked in studies showing that the parental happiness gap has grown smaller (Herbst and Ifcher 2016Preisner et al. 2020), are that the relative happiness advantage of men without children may have declined in the context of growing social disconnectedness, which parenthood helps buffer. At the same time, the happiness of men with children has grown as gendered norms around fathers’ caregiving have allowed fathers to experience more time in play, leisure, and other enjoyable family activities (Negraia et al. 2018).
For Black men, those with children were substantially more likely to report being very happy, and far less likely to report being not very happy, than their nonparent male counterparts. These results suggest that fathering is a far more salient experience for Black men than prior research has recognized. Results also extend a handful of ethnographic studies on lower income, generally noncustodial Black fathers (who are of note far more involved with their children than commonly assumed; Abdill 2018), which indicate that Black men may subscribe to a different view of fatherhood borne out of structural barriers that have historically hindered Black fathers from providing financially in the same way as White fathers (Bloome 2014). Specifically, Black fathers reject traditional notions of the package deal, in which satisfaction from fathering is derived from one’s ability to financially provide (Townsend 2002) and instead endorse a model of “relational fathering” or “new package deal” that celebrates the joys of fathering (see Edin and Nelson 2013). For example, as many of the men in the study by Edin and Nelson (2013) recounted, fatherhood “made life worth living,” children were viewed as the ultimate gift, and many of the banal aspects of basic care in which White fathers engage less frequently than White mothers—such as teaching children and helping them dress—were described as “priceless and a treasure any man would want to claim” (p. 221). In this way, these findings also serve to contradict stereotypical notions of Black fathers as being uninterested in fathering. More broadly, these findings also indicate that parental status does not explain Black men’s lower levels of happiness compared with White men’s, as observed in prior studies (e.g., Cummings 2020; Iceland and Ludwig-Dehm 2019).
Of course, at this time, many of the inferences based on these patterns of results are conjecture. It remains unclear how Black mothers blunt the potentially negative impact that “mothering while black” (Dow 2019) has on their subjective well-being or why fathering has such a positive impact on Black men. However, this study underscores the importance of exploring such questions in future research. At the same time, this study has several other limitations that should be noted. First, the validity and reliability of self-assessed generalized measures of happiness, including the happiness measure the GSS, continue to be debated. Some have argued that a more nuanced scale of happiness is preferable (Lyubomirsky and Lepper 1999). Others argue in support of a conceptually distinct way of measuring well-being through momentary measures (Negraia and Augustine 2020). Future studies should therefore also replicate the present study using other measures of happiness. At the same time, the use of the GSS measures provide a strong connection to past research on happiness, and our within-race estimation procedure accounts for race differences in the interpretation and conceptualization of happiness that challenge reliability.
Second, we also must acknowledge that it is likely that the patterns we observed are further differentiated by adults’ education, income, and marital status, as well as characteristics of parents’ children (e.g., ages, gender). Although an exploration of such factors is beyond the scope of the present study, and in many cases is limited by small sample sizes, particularly among Black fathers, future studies based on other data should consider these sources of variability as well. Last, consistent with prior research, we focused on parents who were coresidential and caring for minor children. Yet the experiences of nonresidential parents, and particularly of fathers, are also important to recognize, as highlighted in recent ethnographic accounts of minority fathers, and should be considered more carefully in future research as well, as should the experiences of other parents, such as step and social parents as well as parents who are empty nesters or caring for household adult children. Doing so, however, would also require other data.
In sum, the aim of this study was to address an important question that had yet to be answered: whether parenting (vs. not caring for minor household children) is negatively associated with the happiness of Blacks more so than that of Whites. Our results indicated a surprising pattern of results. Among women, White mothers were less happy than female nonmothers, but this was not the case for Black women. These results suggest that Black mothers’ levels of happiness were resilient to the numerous well-documented challenges they face protecting and promoting the welfare of their children. For men, Black fathers were far more likely to be happy than their nonparent counterparts, although this was not true for White men, for whom we did not observe any differences in happiness by parental status. These results highlight the profundity of the father role for Black men and controvert much conventional thinking and stereotyping and Black men’s experiences of fatherhood.

Miscitation in Psychology: About 19% of citing claims either failed to include important nuances of results (9.3%) or completely mischaracterized findings from prior research altogether (9.5%)

Cobb, C. L., Crumly, B., Montero-Zamora, P., Schwartz, S. J., & Martínez, C. R., Jr. (2023). The problem of miscitation in psychological science: Righting the ship. American Psychologist, Feb 2023.

Abstract: Scholarly citation represents one of the most common and essential elements of psychological science, from publishing research, to writing grant proposals, to presenting research at academic conferences. However, when authors mischaracterize prior research findings in their studies, such instances of miscitation call into question the reliability and credibility of scholarship within psychological science and can harm theory development, evidence-based practices, knowledge growth, and public trust in psychology as a legitimate science. Despite these implications, almost no research has considered the prevalence of miscitation in the psychological literature. In the largest study to date, we compared the accuracy of 3,347 citing claims to original findings across 89 articles in eight of top psychology journals. Results indicated that, although most (81.2%) citations were accurate, roughly 19% of citing claims either failed to include important nuances of results (9.3%) or completely mischaracterized findings from prior research altogether (9.5%). Moreover, the degree of miscitation did not depend on the number of authors on an article or the seniority of the first authors. Overall, results indicate that approximately one in every 10 citations completely mischaracterizes prior research in leading psychology journals. We offer five recommendations to help authors ensure that they cite prior research accurately.

Impact Statement: This article suggests that approximately one in every 10 citations across leading psychology journals is inaccurate. Such instances of miscitation may call into question the reliability and credibility of scholarship within psychological science. Scholars in psychology should be careful to ensure that they cite and characterize findings from prior research accurately in their studies.