New York Times
Monday, July 13, 2009
Children do not bring happiness. In fact more often they seem to bring unhappiness. That is the conclusion of one academic study after the next — and there are so many that it makes one wonder if researchers kept trying, hoping for a different result.
In the April edition of the online Journal of the British Psychological Association, researcher Nattavudh Powdthavee, of the University of York in Great Britain (whose own academic work concludes that there is no difference between the life satisfaction levels of parents and non-parents) summarizes the existing studies:
Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003) and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.
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And it is not just the years of active parenting that tamp down happiness, Powdthavee writes:
There is also evidence that the strains associated with parenthood are not only limited to the period during which children are physically and economically dependent. For example, Glenn and McLanahan (1981) found those older parents whose children have left home report the same or slightly less happiness than non-parents of similar age and status. Thus, what these results are suggesting is something very controversial — that having children does not bring joy to our lives.
Which leads to the seminal question — why does anyone have children in the first place? If, statistically and on average, parents are no happier, and many are less happy, then those without children, then what are all these baby showers about?
This article was posted: Monday, July 13, 2009 at 4:21 am