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Are couples happier without children?

  1. Jun 27, 2016 #1


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    I find this hard to believe, surly having kids makes the parent happy.

    June 23, 2016
    Baylor University
    Parents in the United States generally are not as happy as those who aren't parents. Not only that, the U.S. has the largest "happiness gap" among parents compared to non-parents in 22 industrialized countries, according to a new report.
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  3. Jun 27, 2016 #2


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    I don't see why you would think it would be hard to believe. The article you link to suggest possible reasons for the "happiness gap" -- for example, the lack of a standard mandated parental (either maternal or paternal) leave for child care or standard vacation or sick leave.

    Of course when it comes to defining "happiness" one can suspect that there is a not-insignificant cultural component. For example, the same article you link states that Americans are not generally an unhappy people (on a happiness scale of 1 to 10 they hover in the 8 to 10 scale, whereas those participants in France hover in the 5 to 7). I would be curious to see if there are racial or ethnic disparities in the degree of happiness of parents, and what the level of disparity would be.
  4. Jun 27, 2016 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    @StatGuy2000 is spot on. "Experimental design" in polls is always the first thing to consider. Experienced firms (like Harris) are able to do better work than a lone researcher at an institution. Expense and access to populations is another major factor.
  5. Jun 27, 2016 #4


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    A child can be a great source of stress. Lack of sleep in the early (and not so early) days. Lack of "me" time. Tantrums. Are they sick? How sick? Balancing giving them things they want with not giving them everything they ask for. Balancing your budget with that. Many grandparents seem to like to stick their oar in. Childcare is a nightmare, especially if you both commute. Are they being bullied? Are they doing ok at school? Are they smoking? Drinking? Drugs? Eating disorders?

    Don't get me wrong, children can be an absolute joy. Watching my little guy grow and learn is fascinating, and he's generally a lovely boy. But you're responsible for them, and there's a lot of stress.
  6. Jun 28, 2016 #5

    Fervent Freyja

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    If I hadn't planned out my daughters early childhood so that I could stay-at-home for her first years, then, I would certainly be unhappy. A quick statistic(but not totally reflective): 70 % of American women with children under age 18 participate in the labor force

    The article mentioned something about needing assistance with child care. What is utterly insane to me is the assumption that women would prefer working full-time. Which, is not the truth from the mothers I've spoken with- most women want to be at home for those early years, but aren't usually in the circumstance to where they can do so! It has also became an automatic assumption in some regions that both parents work full-time even when it is affordable, though traditional family values remain in others. I think that a compromise needs to be made in both areas, but it doesn't have to be so extreme (many Dads are now doing the childcare and some other good progress).

    Although there is a great need for better quality, affordable childcare in the US, I don't believe people are focusing on the right issues. It is easy to understand that childcare is important when you are childless; but when you become a parent, you realize that quality is important and that often means for the child to be around a familiar caregiver on a consistent basis (daycare's do not guarantee this). Of course, there are many papers floating around out there that claim mothers are happier when they work full-time and such nonsense with feminist agendas. I can understand part-time or going to school, but it is very difficult to take care of the household, children, and other duties alongside working a full-time job- the issue is there is usually not enough time in the day to do it all like we want. Like Ibix said, it can be stressful when you are responsible for a child. Imagine the stress that collects from knowing that you can't give your children what you truly know is best for them! Instead of focusing so much on affordable daycare, why not focus on opening the option for a parent or other family member to stay-at-home first?

    I think the number of children is an important factor to consider here too! I'm sticking with one for now.
  7. Jul 1, 2016 #6


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  8. Jul 2, 2016 #7
    Yes. Due to stress, loss of sleep, loss of money, loss of opportunity, and generally no longer being in control of your own life, people do tend to be less happy with their lives after they have children than they were before. A lot of people buy in to parenthood thinking that it's just what's normal or what's expected and only realize too late that it's not something they wanted. http://users.wfu.edu/simonr/pdfs/Simon Contexts 2008.pdf

    Those things do tend to correlate though. Amount of education and general happiness correlate pretty consistently with a feeling that one's life has purpose.
  9. Jul 3, 2016 #8


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    Isn't that the point of the article? Like you say, parents (not just women) want to be able to spend time with their children, countries that give citizens the means to do that have happier parents than those that don't.

    ""The United States, without any standard paid leave available to mothers or parents -- or any standard vacation or sick leave to support raising a dependent child -- falls strikingly behind all the other countries we examined in terms of providing for parents' happiness and overall well-being," he said.""

    You may want to read the article in the OP:

    "In countries in which such policies are mandated by the government or industry, a smaller gap exists between parents and non-parents. "In fact, in those places, parents might be slightly happier," Andersson said."

    I am a parent in one of those places, and would like to think I'm more than 'slightly happier'. It seems bleedingly obvious that less parent friendly policies would make parenting a less happy experience, though I wasn't aware just how bad is was in the USA. Is paid parental leave something that's commonly negotiated for during employment contract negotiations?
  10. Jul 3, 2016 #9
    Yes, it's a benefit that's rarely awarded outside of professional, full-time jobs. Usually you only get a couple of weeks, and it's not covered by disability or worker's comp.

    Of course, while the gap may be smaller when such policies are in place, there's still a pretty consistent gap according to the article.
  11. Jul 3, 2016 #10
    Anecdotally, some of the happiest times in my life were looking at things through my kids' eyes. As adults we take most things for granted. With children, you get to see things from a different perspective. My $0.02.
  12. Jul 3, 2016 #11


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    I think you missed my point about "happiness" being a difficult to define objectively across time and varying conditions.

    The article (not a scientific paper) you reference does not substantiate all of your assertions, but it does state "...parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions, and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers." I know of another condition of the human experience that meets this description: growing-up, or any kind of change inducing, maturation process on the front end. All resist change at times, adhering to care free living, and that piece of us is best described in the Peter Pan tale. Peter I think is indeed likely to experience "lower levels of emotional well-being" if he leaves the Lost Boys to become self sufficient without magic powers, search for a spouse, and become a father himself, a life long responsibility. Now comes the sociologist to reverse the tale of growing up into a tragedy, making the care-free days of childhood into a permanent state via public support.
  13. Jul 3, 2016 #12
    I think the greater fallacy here is the automatic assumption that being a parent is a necessary condition for maturity, or that parenthood automatically induces maturity. I also have no earthly idea what welfare has to do with it.

    Hypothetically, what if Peter Pan had decided to keep his powers and use them to help people? There was, after all, only one of him and plenty of people getting married and having kids. One could just as well call his desire to give up his abilities in order to lead an otherwise common existence selfish and an equal, if not greater, rejection of responsibility.

    My point is that if there are people who have the potential to really do good things in the world, and I've seen plenty to suggest that this kind of potential is rare, and if these people are squandering that potential because of parental desire, then that is quite selfish and irresponsible.

    And even in the absence of that, there's that other thing...http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/jul/family-planning-major-environmental-emphasis One might dare to call the careless decision to increase your carbon footprint by more than a factor of 6 out of personal desire or a misplaced sense of social obligation to follow a prescribed path to maturity incredibly selfish.
  14. Jul 5, 2016 #13
    I can only assume the OP does not have children.
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