Surprise! New Studies Find Kids Make Us Happy

Surprise! New Studies Find Kids Make Us Happy

Years of research falls on the side of the childless: Having children, studies tell us, make people unhappy.

(So does wanting the best of both worlds.)

But USA Today reports that two new studies on parenting and happiness find the opposite.

One study, from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, compared the happiness levels of British and German parents in the first 4-5 years after their children's births to their happiness levels in the 4-5 years before having children.


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It found that their overall levels of happiness never dropped below the levels associated with non-parents.

The study's co-author Mikko Myrskylä is quoted as saying, "We find no evidence that parental well-being decreases after a child is born to levels preceding the children, but we find strong evidence that well-being is elevated when people are planning and waiting for the child, and in the year when the child is born."

The same study also found that "those who become parents at younger ages have a downward happiness trend, while postponing parenthood results in a higher happiness level after the birth," but the study's co-author makes sure to caveat that as age increases, so too does the risk of becoming involuntarily childless.

And finally, it found that while the first child makes parents happier, the second makes them less so and the third hardly makes a dent.

The other study, from Arizona State University, drew a particularly interesting conclusion after analyzing data from surveys administered in 1972-2008: It's not so much that parents are happier, but that non-parents are unhappier. By comparison, the parents come out ahead.

This gap in data on happiness from two time periods (1985-1995 and 1995-2008) sparked this idea, and the study's co-author says that the data isn't clear on whether parents are happier than non-parents, but certainly that non-parents are getting increasingly unhappy.

So what do you think? Are parents getting happier, are non-parents getting unhappier ... or neither?


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