Parents not so unhappy, research shows

May 5, 2012 at 5:29 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, May 5 (UPI) -- People who have children are not less happy than people without kids, international research suggests.

Two studies presented at the Population Association of America's annual meeting, which concluded Saturday in San Francisco, found earlier research that indicated parents are less happy, more depressed and have less-satisfying marriages than their childless peers may not be correct, USA Today reported Saturday.

"We find no evidence that parental well-being decreases after a child is born to levels preceding the children, but we find strong evidence that well-being is elevated when people are planning and waiting for the child, and in the year when the child is born," notes the study presented by co-author Mikko Myrskyla of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.

Overall, the experience of having a child is positive, suggests Myrskyla's research, which analyzed the happiness of British and German parents by following the same people for four to five years before they became parents and up to four years afterward. Happiness levels of parents were compared with their happiness before having children.

The other study, which surveyed 120,000 adults in the United Stated between 1972 and 2008, found parents were less happy than childless people between 1985 and 1995, but from 1995 on, parents were happier.

The study's co-author, Chris Herbst of Arizona State University, suggested childless people became less happy over time, while parents became more happy.

Herbst said his data does not clearly point to whether parents today are happier than childless people, but what's "undeniable, however, is that parents have become relatively happier than non-parents over the past few decades."

His research identifies "serious problems with previous work that ought to make people skeptical about the earlier conclusions" that suggested parents were less happy than people without kids, Herbst said.

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