Why Moms Struggle With Loneliness And Stress When Their Children Are Early Teens
It’s often thought that the most difficult time to be a mother is during a child’s first few years.
At that time, a mother is often hands-on, as the child simply cannot take care of themselves.
Many people assume that causes a substantial amount of stress and loneliness.
But, a new study revealed the worst time for mothers is actually during their child’s early teenage years.
Furthermore, mothers are the happiest during their child’s infant and adult years.
Arizona State University scientists surveyed 2,200 mostly well-educated mothers with children ranging from infants and adults.
The study set out to address whether mothers’ adjustment might vary by the developmental stages of their child.
The authors said there is plenty of literature on how mothers affect their children, but there is very little on how children affect their mothers.
Motherhood entails hard work – with demands on time, emotional and physical energy.
It can often also conflict with other roles and relationships.
And, there have been increasing reports of higher levels of parenting stress among upper-middle class others in particular.
The scientists looked at how the infant, preschool, elementary school, middle school and adulthood years affected mothers.
They anticipated that the middle school – a time during which children are typically between the ages of 11 and 14 – may be the most challenging for mothers.
"For mothers with children in exclusive age categories, middle school was the time when difficulty peaked"
That’s because that period marks the transition from child to adolescent 0 with major physical, hormonal and cognitive changes.
Furthermore, the middle school years are a time in which children start separating from their parents and form their own identities.
At that same time, middle school students also have to cope with school and social pressure.
The study authors anticipated infancy would be the second most difficult time for mothers.
The birth of a child presents ‘significant stressors’ on personal time and energy, they explained.
The study pulled data from the ‘Moms as People’ study – an online survey that examines how mothers feel about various aspects of their life.
The scientists found that middle school is the most challenging time for mothers.
The study said: ‘For mothers with children in exclusive age categories, middle school was the time when difficulty peaked across several dimensions including emptiness, (low) life satisfaction, (low) parenting satisfaction, maternal rejection, child maladjustment, (low) child positive, and child negative behaviors.’
The scientists noted that these findings probably rest in part on puberty and the related perturbations in children’s adjustment, as well as the relationship with their parents.
Furthermore, the study found that mothers with infant children ‘reported relatively low levels of maladjustment across negative personal and parenting indices.’
The authors noted that the conclusions of the study underscore the need for systematic attention to the well-being of mothers.
The study was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.