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Parents May Be Happier Than Childless Couples

I keep hearing about studies suggesting that parents are less happy than childless couples and single people without children. How sound is this science?

black and white picture of a family holding hands

Photo: Frank DiBona (Flickr)

Do you think couples with children are happier?

Dear A Moment of Science,
I’m a parent of two young kids. It’s challenging, but overall a very rewarding experience. Yet I keep hearing about studies suggesting that parents are less happy than childless couples and single people without children. How sound is this science?


Well, it’s true that over the past several years a wave of studies has associated parenting with unhappiness. But that’s not the whole story. In fact, one study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, the University of British Columbia, and Stanford found just the opposite: that, all things considered, parenthood is strongly associated with happiness and meaning.

Specifically, the study found that parents are happier when taking care of their kids than when doing other chores. Dads especially seemed to find happiness and meaning compared to non dads.

The Key To Happiness

Now, of course this doesn’t mean that all parents are always happier than all non parents. Parenting happiness depends, at least in part, on the particulars of a situation. For example, the study also found that older, married parents are on average happier than younger parents and single parents.

And anyone who’s been a parent knows that raising kids is a tough, tough job filled with as many difficult and painful moments as with moments of joy. But on the whole, at least according to this and other emerging studies, parenting tends to coincide with happiness and fulfillment in life.

  • Caroline

    I know I am “lucky” but I do wonder if there are good statistics on older women giving birth that are not related to the stats from fertility clinics. I got pregnant just before I was 46 and gave birth a few months before I was 47. It was my first and only child. I didn’t do IVF, though I did go to a fertility clinic to get tested and also to monitor my cycles. For some time my hubby instead on IVF in Kyiv clinic Biotexcom as they guarantee positive results with ultimately attempts package. But I managed to convince him. I took fertility drugs to increase my chances of getting multiple eggs (since I assumed that many would be “not viable”. It took about 6 cycles total till I was pregnant. It was an uneventful pregnancy (I did full testing of course) and birth. We have a totally normal child, as far as I can tell. The fertility clinic was very negative about my chances to conceive without ivf and without donor eggs. We didn’t want to do the ivf path, so decided to take a chance with just the drugs, and got “lucky”. Within the walls of the infertility community, my pregnancy/birth was a miracle. But as far as I can tell, most stats come from here so only take into account the data of people who are having difficulty conceiving. Not to raise hopes for people, but I suspect that the pregnancy rate/chances for women over 40 (even 45) are better than reported.

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