How having a second child could impact your mental health

Having a second child can negatively impact parents’ mental health [Photo: Getty]

You might think that going from one child to two won’t make much difference, but new research has revealed that having a second child could have a negative impact parents’ mental health.

The research, published in the journal of marriage and family, used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, following roughly 20,000 Australians for up to 16 years in order to measure what happens to parents’ time pressure and mental health as first children are born, grow older and when new siblings arrive. 

You might think that in terms of time pressure, things might get easier after the birth of a second baby mainly because mums and dads have got the whole parenting thing down. But the results of the survey don’t actually support this.

Instead the research revealed that second children increase time pressure and deteriorate their parents’ mental health, particularly their mothers.

Instead of parenthood becoming easier, and mums and dads being able to apply the skills they’ve learnt from bringing up baby number one, the study found that juggling two little ones merely piles on the parenting pressure.

And because mums are often more impacted by those parenting pressures they are more negatively affected.

Interestingly, the study found that mothers’ mental health actually improves immediately following the birth of their first baby and remains steady for the next few years.

But throwing a second baby into the mix, increases mums’ feelings of time pressure and mental load.

Researchers hope their findings might help shine a light on the issue of motherhood and mental health and provide mums with more support to cope with parenting time pressures.

“Mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone,” the authors say in an essay on The Conversation. “Even when they reduce their work time to accommodate children’s demands, their time pressures do not ease. This has important consequences for their mental health.”

The new research comes as it was revealed back in October that 85 per cent of mums say they have suffered from some form of anxiety or mental health issue while pregnant or since becoming a mother.

A new survey by parenting site ChannelMum revealed that though more than three quarters of all mums say their mental wellbeing has been impacted, more than half were never warned this could happen.

A third of mums have suffered at least one panic attack and more than a quarter of these have had multiple stress-related episodes.

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