Monday, October 19, 2015

Are Parents Less Happy? Are Couples with Children Less Happy?



You probably were not waiting to decide if you want to have children in life based on the latest answers from social science. But if you are wanting to know the answer, like the old status on FaceBook, it's complicated. If you want a good sense how and why, I have two pieces to recommend to you.

First, there is a brand new post over at Science of Relationships (www.scienceofrelationships.com) for you to read: “Parents Are Less Happy”: Fact or Fiction? It's an excellent piece by Andrew Willis Garc├ęs that focuses on overall life happiness.

Want more? My favorite blog post ever was on this very subject, 6 years ago. I find that it holds up quite well. Here you go. Cleanup on Aisle 9 (at 35,000 Feet) This piecefocuses on what research suggests happens in terms of marital or couple happiness when people have a child.

The point that will come out strongly in both pieces is how complex the nature of contentment and happiness really is in life. I also make the point in my piece that we (those who study the effects on the couple) don't really measure something I'd call family happiness in social science. Rather, we have pretty thin measures of personal and couple-level happiness that likely don't capture something many people experience when it comes to fulfillment and meaning in life that I'd call happiness as a family.

Sure, some people are more miserable in life because they had children. Some couples have more strain that seems--and sometimes is--unending. Some children are challenging and/or difficult--and this can be unrelated to the quality of the parenting and upbringing they received. And some people are pretty lousy parents, and the whole world might have been better off if they had been better parents or not parents at all.

Children. They are not for everyone. But some of you will be great parents, even if it sometimes harshes your buzz in life to take it on.