Psychology Parenting
Mom and Daughter UberImages /iStock.com

A study explores the most difficult years for a mother based on the age of children.

December 29, 2016

The most difficult years to be a mother? Hint: Not infancy

Study offers reasons why this stage of child rearing can be so daunting

Mothers of little ones are often told that it gets easier once they’re through the potty training, teething and toddler tantrums.

But a study on the well-being of mothers during different stages of parenting suggests the worst may be yet to come for these doe-eyed moms.

The study, conducted by Arizona State University researchers and published back in January in Developmental Psychology, suggests raising children of middle school age is actually the most stressful period of parenting for moms.

To come to their conclusion, the researchers surveyed 2,200 mostly well-educated mothers with children ranging from infants to adults. The researchers chose to focus on well-educated women because there have been increasing reports of elevated parenting stress among upper-middle-class mothers in particular.

“In other analyses of patterns spanning 2003 to 2007, college-educated mothers reportedly invested 130 percent more time than their less educated counterparts in managing their school-age children’s activities, including planning, organizing, attending, and traveling to and from events.”

The report also lists a few reasons why mothering middle school-aged children may lead to increased stress for moms. For one, mothers often take on some of their pubescent children’s distress, and two, mothers often shoulder much more of the "invisible labor" required by children’s organized activities, which are at an increase during this time and require more hands-on attention.

The study doesn't touch on fathers' parental stress throughout a child's development.

In the end, the researchers suggest there is good news to come, as in a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Finally, across developmental stages, we expected the lowest levels of stress, and the most satisfaction with life, among mothers of adult children.”

So breathe, mom, and try these stress-fighting exercises while you survive middle school – again.