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Having Children Speeds up the Subjective Passage of Lifetime in Parents

In: Timing & Time Perception
Authors:
Marc WittmannInstitute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Wilhelmstr. 3a, 79098 Freiburg, Germany

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Nathalie MellaSwiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Campus Biotech, 9, Chemin des Mines, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Health Psychology Research Group, Faculty of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Geneva, Boulevard du Pont d’Arve, 40, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

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Abstract

A widely reproduced finding across numerous studies of different cultures is that adults perceive the most recent 10 years of their lives to have passed particularly fast, and that this perceived speed increases as they grow older. Potential explanatory factors for this effect are believed to be more routines in life as we age as well as an increase in time pressure during middle adult age, both factors that would lead to a reduced autobiographical memory load. Fewer contextual changes in life are known to cause the passage of time to be perceived as faster. Taking advantage of the database created for the study that first captured this age effect on subjective time (), we investigated the role that having children plays in the subjective speeding of time. Adults aged between 20 and 59 who had children reported that time over the last 10 years passed subjectively more quickly than adults of the same age group without children. Factors such as education or gender did not influence subjective time. A small correlation effect could be seen in the fact that parents with more children reported that time passed more quickly. Experienced time pressure was not a differentiating factor between the two groups, as time pressure was associated with a faster passage of time in all adults. Future systematic studies will have to reveal what factors on autobiographical memory and time might be accountable for this clear effect that raising children has on perceived time.

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