Does Having Children Make People Happier in the Long Run?

Does Having Children Make People Happier in the Long Run? Is it true that becoming a parent saps the joy from life, or is it the key to happiness?

According to a new study, people who have children at home are about as satisfied with their lives as those who do not have children at home.

“Parents value their life more than individuals without children, but they’re different in a number of ways: they’re wealthier; they’re more educated; they’re healthier,” said Angus Deaton, a Princeton University economist and study co-author. “There’s basically no difference in life appraisal after you adjust for those items.”

The findings, which were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today (Jan. 13), imply that people who select one lifestyle over another are likely to be happy with their choice.

“By and large, people who have children desire children,” Deaton told LiveScience. “Individuals who do not want children are, for the most part, people who do not want to have children. And why should one set of people be happier than the other?”

Does Having Children Make People Happier in the Long Run?

Inconsistent outcomes

The findings of studies on parenting have been mixed. According to some research, happiness falls with each extra child for young parents, while those with large families are happier in midlife. According to other research, parents are happier than nonparents. Other research has discovered that having children has a negative impact on marital satisfaction.

Deaton and his colleague Arthur Stone, a psychiatry specialist at Stony Brook University in New York, analysed Gallup poll data from 1.8 million Americans and 1.07 million individuals in 161 different countries.

Participants in the survey indicated if they had children at home and answered many additional questions, including one in which they assessed their lives on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the greatest possible existence and 0 representing the worst. They were also asked whether they had felt “a lot” or “not at all” happy, smiling, anger, anxiety, and other emotions the day before.

Overall, those who had children at home rated their lives higher than those who did not have children at home. However, when adjusting for other factors associated with life satisfaction, such as wealth, health, and religiousness, the disparity vanished.

The study doesn’t discriminate between empty nesters, noncustodial parents, and those who have children but don’t live with them, so it can’t properly address the issue of whether parents are happier than nonparents, according to Deaton.

It is crucial to make a decision.

Having children is primarily a choice in today’s world, according to Andrew Oswald, an economist from the University of Warwick in England who was not engaged in the research.

“Choosing either can lead to happiness,” Oswald told LiveScience. “Various people take different paths in life.”

What about the grandmothers and busybodies who tell people who aren’t intending to have children that once they do, they’ll be so much happier?

“It may well be that they would be just as happy without kids, particularly if they had other things in their lives that would be just as satisfying,” Carol Graham, an economist at the Brookings Institution who was not involved in the study, said.

However, there is one undeniable (though speculative) advantage to having children: grandkids.

“There’s a lot of evidence that having grandkids makes you happy,” said Oswald, who recently welcomed his first grandson. “It’s easy to understand why: Grandparents get a lot of the benefits without having to get out of bed in the middle of the night.”


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