Does having children make you happy?

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  • #1
Gokul43201
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I was listening to a short piece on NPR a few days ago, and heard some rather surprising stats. I later tried to dig up more about this online, and while I didn't find the actual NPR piece, I did find this related article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/143792

In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child—and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids. Other data cited by 2008's "Gross National Happiness" author, Arthur C. Brooks, finds that parents are about 7 percentage points less likely to report being happy than the childless.

The most recent comprehensive study on the emotional state of those with kids shows us that the term "bundle of joy" may not be the most accurate way to describe our offspring. "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."
...
When I read this, I thought of posting the link in the other recent thread on having children, but found that it had been locked for veering way off-topic. So, let's try to not have that happen here.

What do you think about the results of the (not-formally) cited studies? Do you have citations for any studies that contradict or question the results or methodology of the above studies?


Other References and Articles:

1. Simon, Robin W. “The Joys of Parenthood, Reconsidered” Contexts 7, 40-45 (2008)

2. Evenson, Ranae J. and Simon, Robin W. "Clarifying the relationship between parenthood and depression" Journal of Health and Social Behavior 46, 341 – 358 (2005)

3. http://www.livescience.com/health/060207_parent_depression.html
 
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  • #2
lisab
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I have seen people in public places with their kids out of control, running amok...they have that look in their eyes like, please just kill me now. That study makes me think of them.

Fortunately, I never, ever felt that. My daughter has been a true joy in my life since day one. Well the first year was tough, but she was the one bright thing in that year. People would volunteer to babysit when she was little, to "give me a break." That mystified me; I hated being away from her, she was always such good company!

Now, there are aspects of my parenting experience that may make it an exceptional case. I only had one, so I never felt overwhelmed. I was not too young when I had her, I was 28. I was in a stable marriage. I was lucky enough to be able to be a stay-at-home mom for 9 years. Plus, my daughter's personality is easy-going and cheerful. And she's brilliant, too.

People say raising a kid is the hardest job you could ever do. Well those people never took E&M, I bet, haha. I didn't find being a mom to be difficult at all.
 
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  • #3
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From my prespective, more children means more responsbilities. If you don't have means to handle those responsbilities you cannot be very happy.
 
  • #4
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As a father of 4, let me say that children greatly enhance your life. Also as a father of 4, let me say that teenagers can be VERY...difficult.
 
  • #5
Evo
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Being a parent, and knowing a lot of other parents, as well as childless couples. I have to agree with the study. Probably nothing causes more problems in a marriage than having children.

I wonder if there have been studies that show the percent of divorces caused by having children? Many (mostly women) seem to think that the way to trap a man into marriage, or save a bad marriage is to have a child. Like some magical glue that will bind the man to the woman.

One of the main rifts in my own marriage were disputes about raising the children. I thought they should be children, my ex thought they should be perfect little robots.

The happiest couples I know are childless.

As a "single" parent of adult children, it's great to have them as adult friends. But not all children have fond memories of their parents. A lot of people are screwed up because of their parents. I know WAY too many of these people.
 
  • #6
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People say raising a kid is the hardest job you could ever do. Well those people never took E&M, I bet, haha. I didn't find being a mom to be difficult at all.
Electricitiy and Magnetism course? :biggrin:
 
  • #7
lisab
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Electricitiy and Magnetism course? :biggrin:
Yes, a three-quarter, upper-division series in electricity and magnetism. Much harder than raising a kid, IMO.
 
  • #8
lisab
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Being a parent, and knowing a lot of other parents, as well as childless couples. I have to agree with the study. Probably nothing causes more problems in a marriage than having children.

I wonder if there have been studies that show the percent of divorces caused by having children? Many (mostly women) seem to think that the way to trap a man into marriage, or save a bad marriage is to have a child. Like some magical glue that will bind the man to the woman.

One of the main rifts in my own marriage were disputes about raising the children. I thought they should be children, my ex thought they should be perfect little robots.

The happiest couples I know are childless.

As a "single" parent of adult children, it's great to have them as adult friends. But not all children have fond memories of their parents. A lot of people are screwed up because of their parents. I know WAY too many of these people.
Yeah I bet it's a leading cause, because the "right" way to raise your kid is soooo ingrained in people. And a parent's instinct to protect their kid runs deep, it's the strongest emotion I think I've ever felt. I was lucky that my husband and I saw eye-to-eye on a lot of critical aspects of raising a kid. Had he wanted to, for example, spank our daughter, I would have gone ballistic. I'm talking, momma-bear's-gonna-tear-you-apart deep emotion.

I can easily see how that sort of intense emotion could tear apart a marriage.
 
  • #9
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If you don't have kids, who do you send out for beer?
 
  • #10
BobG
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and increases only when the last child has left home.
Having a 25-year-old still living at home, I'd have to say I'm expecting happiness to increase once I finally kick him out on the street. The ex finally kicked the 21-year-old out of her house and I'm jealous (plus terrified he might decide it's time to make up with me and move into my house).

Having kids is great, but a person does reach a time in their life when they ought to be looking for less responsibility, not more.

I know my parents became a lot happier after the seven of us were finally out of the house. A little too happy for my taste. I'd visit them for Christmas, but I didn't want my kids around there for the New Year's Eve parties. They did weird things, like ran around wearing those cone shaped party hats on their breasts and crotches.
 
  • #11
hotvette
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Having kids is a joy because you want to have kids, not because you want joy.
 
  • #12
Evo
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Having kids is a joy because you want to have kids, not because you want joy.
I didn't want kids.

And some people want kids because they have emotional problems. A lot of young girls from bad families say they wanted a baby because they needed to feel loved. Very unhealthy.
 
  • #13
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I believe a family is best planned. Also, having kids to keep a marriage together is seldom a good plan. Last, kids are expensive - if you can't afford them - don't have them!
 
  • #14
DaveC426913
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I believe a family is best planned. Also, having kids to keep a marriage together is seldom a good plan. Last, kids are expensive - if you can't afford them - don't have them!
A few corrections of my own. :smile:

1] Having kids to keep a marriage together is never a good plan.

2] That time when you can afford kids - or when you have the time, or when stresses in your life stop happening - will never come. Decide if you can raise kids despite adversity. If you can, have them.
 
  • #15
turbo
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My wife and I have no kids. 35+ years later, we have been vindicated by our siblings' travails. Get a dog.
 
  • #16
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There is one Universal Truth, and that is that there are no Universal Truths.

Some people would be happier without kids, some would be happier with them. Tastes differ.

I'll agree that having kids to "save a marriage" is a recipe for disaster though.
 
  • #17
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not everyone was cut out to be parent, and that's regardless of how "prepared" you are. Some people just don't have what it takes..

hapiness is a choice, like all things in life. you either choose to be happy with your circumstances or not. If you see misery, you will be misery. If you see joy, you will be joy.

There's a hallmark card for you

"sorry you got knocked up"
 
  • #18
Having a child means so much and in so many ways. It effects everything in one's life because there is no longer worry about "myself", now it's worry about "us". Once you have a baby it changes the way you see life and it creates a little person that is 100% your responsibility .Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Most non parents don't have to worry about much but themselves and possibly another adult partner, which is different from the parent child dynamic. As I have gotten a bit older I notice that life can become increasingly stressful and I have become more aware how fragile it is, as grandparents and sometimes even parents or friends have passed away. Life is not always easy, even with money and education and a good family things can still be stressful, now add a child to the mix and it can become more stressful but that is not because of the child, it's the responsibility that comes with them. I love my daughter more then anything in the world and that love gets me through the hard times. If being a parent causes extra stress, I wouldn't trade it in for a less stressful life. Children are not for everyone. I feel quite proud and happy that I have been given such a gift, as my child.
 
  • #19
Ivan Seeking
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As has been mentioned, I think it depends a lot on the individual. I always thought I wanted to have a large family. But after we got mariied, the years passed by, and eventually the decision was made for us. Even so, in the end, neither one of us really wanted to have kids. I understand that parenthood can be tremendously rewarding, so I don't mean to slight that aspect of having kids in the least. I understand that once you have them, they become your life. But, by not having kids, we have had life options that never would have been possible otherwise. We have been able to live where we want, mostly how we want, and doing what we want. It has allowed me to take risks that no responsible parent would be able to take. It has allowed me to pursue a dream without doing so at the expense of my family, as many people do. I am hard pressed to think of anything in my life that I would want to give up for the sake of having a family. In fact, when I think of how our lives might have been if we had kids, I can imagine being desperately unhappy. The thought of the hum drum of a "normal life" makes me want to run for the nearest cliff! There but for the grace of God, go I.
 
  • #20
Moonbear
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I don't even have kids and that makes sense to me. I've been around enough births to seriously wonder why anyone ever has more than one child, and to be quite sure that I'm content to have a cat.

It's not so much that people with kids are unhappy as they are tied down with the responsibility of raising those kids. They are not able to be spontaneous (no babysitter), move where the jobs are (because they don't want to pull the kids from school), or just generally do what they want (because the kids have big eyes and ears).

I know that a lot of my friends with kids are somewhat jealous of the life I live. Not one of them would trade in their kids to have it, but they realize that not having kids does have a lot of perks. When I get the urge to be maternal, there are always plenty of loaner kids I can obtain (everyone loves a night out if someone is willing to be a responsible adult babysitter) or I take it out on my students who never seem to mind getting nurtured.
 
  • #21
Borek
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One of the main rifts in my own marriage were disputes about raising the children. I thought they should be children, my ex thought they should be perfect little robots.
We had never problems with that, but I do remember that Junior presence sometimes interfered with our plans. There is a price (in your freedom) that you have to pay for raising a kid. Whether joys of parenthood make up for the loss is a very individual thing. I have a mixed feelings. On one side of the equation I am proud of him and I remember many fantastic moments with him, on the second side - since he moved out life is much easier.

I am not surprised by the findings Gokul cites. We - humans - are basically lazy and we prefer to do things that we like, not things that we have to do.

Edit: oh, and it looks to me that stating "I have kids and I am not necessarily happy" is 1. politically incorrect, 2. admitting kind of failure, so most people raising kids will tell you how happy they are.

This last statement may throw this thread into oblivion.
 
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  • #22
Pythagorean
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Six months in, being a parent is awesome.
 
  • #23
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In my quick scan of the article I must have missed the part where he used his calibrated happiness gauges. I was interested in tracability of his devices to the National Emotional Standards Repository. Can anyone point me the paragraph?
 
  • #24
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A) the curvature of a smile, modeled as a function, multiplied by the number of toes on each crows foot.

B) you can always use someone's delusion score in place of their happiness score.
 
  • #25
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Time to balance all that negative talk about having kids. I'm not favoring eugenics at all but somehow I have the feeling that we see reasons here why Homo sapiens Var: illuminatus could be causing his own extinction. So does having children make you happy? Definitely!

I have three kids, ranging from 23 -30 (almost) years, all are having partners and we try to have diner together every week at my home. But it doesn't work out most of the time. So somebody got aggravated about that and urged the others to reconsider priorities to make it happen anyway, because it's always so cozy. That wasn't me, however, it was my middle daughter, who is the mother of:

so1k3r.jpg


And the others agreed to that. And I thought by myself, maybe not everything that I did was wrong.

So are those little toddler and adolescents little devils of another species, determined to make parents life hell? I don't think so, but I think there are some important do's and don't's in the user instructions manual.

The absolute nono, I think, is: "Not now sweetheart, daddy is busy/tired/headache"
Never, ever do that, if it is an excuse. Remember, the most precious thing that you can give to a kid is time. Can't give them enough, although I remember one of them saying once: "Not now daddy, we're already doing something else.

The second nono, I think is: "I don't know why, ask somebody else" or something like that.

But then again, my kids are so easygoing, that having them made me happy. But that's probably unrelated to the user manual about how to raise kids.
 
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