Study Uncovers How Children Affect Parental Happiness

An infant on a woman's shoulderFew 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.


  1. Bingham, J. (2014, January 12). Happier relationships for couples without children. Retrieved from
  2. Does having children make us any happier? (2014, October 28). Retrieved from

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  • Shirley


    October 29th, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    The best thing that ever happened to me is having children, and there have been some good times and some bad but I have never regretted that choice for one minute.

    And I am not the most educated woman in the world and we aren’t rich, but what we lack in money we have in love and I guess that this means that we have a whole lot more than what other families do today.

  • Anthony


    October 29th, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    For years my wife and I have had to listen to friends and family tell us how much happier and more complete our lives would be if we would have kids? But why? We are happy with all that we have and with our marriage and I hardly see how adding another person or two to the mix could help that. We like keeping our extra money and having the freedom to do whatever we want when we want to, and having children would take some of that away. I do not think that she or I either one would feel any more complete with children and I am glad that we made this decision for ourselves and not with what anyone else wanted from us.

  • Raymond


    October 30th, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    This is another one of those issues that is very unique and individual to the couple. There will be some families who would not feel complete without their children and there are others who you know would have been much better off never even having kids!

    I do often find it sad to see the couples who so desperately want to have children and for whatever reasons they cannot and then there are these other families who basically throw those kids that they have away and I think of how much better those lives would have probably all been had to one couple had the children and the others did not.

    I suppose there is a reason for everything that happens, but it does make you question at times.

  • Margot


    October 30th, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    It can definitely help when you have parents around you and family who can help you out. Look, raising kids is not easy, I don’t think that there are many people who would say that it is. But what it is, and what I think that we are missing the point of, is that raising a child can be so fulfilling and rewarding that there really isn’t much else that can compare.

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