What’s the secret to a happy life? Apparently not having kids. Decades of research has compared the happiness and well-being of parents to non-parents and parents are unhappier than their childless peers. Here are a few of the studies as recently reported on the website “The Big Think:”
A 2011 review by Thomas Hansen, a researcher at Norwegian Social Research, compared our folk understanding on the relationship between parenthood and happiness to the evidence. It found that people believe “the lives of childless people are emptier, less rewarding, and lonelier than the lives of parents,” but that the opposite proved true. Children living at home interfered with their parents’ well-being.
A meta-analysis by the National Council on Family Relations looked at a more specific metric of happiness: marital satisfaction. It found that couples without children reported more romantic bliss. The difference was most pronounced among mothers of infants, while fathers disclose less satisfaction regardless of the child’s age. The authors noted the discrepancy likely resulted from role conflicts and restrictions on freedom.
Finally, a study published in the American Journal of Sociology looked at 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and compared the association between parenthood and happiness. Researchers Jennifer Glass (University of Texas, Austin) and Robin Simon (Wake Forest University) found that non-parents reveal higher levels of well-being in most advanced industrialized societies.
The happiness gap is apparently widest in…. you guessed it … the United States, where parents were 12 percent less happy than childless adults.
Some researchers did find that in countries that give a lot of support to parents, such as Spain, Norway, and Portugal, there was a smaller difference in happiness rates.
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