Few parents will ever confess to regretting having children, but children don’t always affect happiness the way their parents might hope. Previous research, for example, has found that couples with children typically have less happy marriages than couples who forgo childrearing. A new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science aims to tease out how children affect their parents’ happiness and whether the number of children parents have matters.
How Do Children Affect Their Parents’ Happiness?
Using data from the British Household Panel Survey and the German Socio-Economic panel, researchers examined how parents’ happiness changes immediately before and after having a child. Parents reported higher levels of happiness in the year leading up to having their first child, and they were also happier in the year immediately after having their first child. For second children, the pattern is similar, though the increase in happiness before and after having a child amounts to about half the happiness increase associated with a first child. By the time parents get around to having a third child, the happiness increase is minimal. Researchers indicate that the increased demand on parents’ resources and energy may explain the drop-off in happiness. Likewise, they argue, second and third pregnancies may be unplanned, creating a number of stresses.
Women show greater happiness gains during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth. They also show a marked decline in happiness during the first year after a child’s birth. Overall, though, researchers found no significant differences in the happiness associated with having a child between men and women.
Demographic factors, researchers found, may also affect how happy parents feel about having children. Parents who have children between the ages of 35 and 49, as well as more educated parents, show the highest gains in happiness and stay at higher levels of happiness after they become parents. Teenage parents, by contrast, show a deterioration in happiness even immediately after having a child. Among parents between the ages of 23 and 34, happiness levels fall below baseline levels a year after having a child.
Older and more educated parents often have more resources and social support, which may help explain their greater happiness levels. Rachel Margolis, one of the study’s authors, points out that the increased happiness of older parents might explain why people are increasingly delaying childrearing.
- Bingham, J. (2014, January 12). Happier relationships for couples without children. Retrieved from http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fhealth%2Fwellbeing%2F10567260%2FHappier-relationships-for-couples-without-children.html
- Does having children make us any happier? (2014, October 28). Retrieved from http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2014/10/ChildrenAndHappiness.aspx
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.