Children Won’t Make You Happier

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People have long debated whether children affect life satisfaction and happiness. Now, the World Happiness Report published by The Earth Institute of Columbia University answers the question, ‘Do children make their parents happy?’And the answer: “Surprisingly, the presence of children in the household appears not to be associated with higher life satisfaction.”

The report was edited by John Helliwll, Richard Layard, and Jeffrey Sachs.

The report draws on the World Values Survey and panel data of U.K and Germany. And says several surveys of the issue acknowledge the absence of such a correlation. In particular, the report says single parents with more children are less happy than those with fewer children.

Most obviously, parents can be overwhelmed by the responsibilities and time pressures of childcare. In terms of net positive feelings, childcare ranks as low as the 16th spot in the hierarchy of daily activities out of a total of 19.

Age also plays a huge role in the happiness associated with having children. Young children under the age of three and teenagers are associated with a lower level of parents’ happiness, while children aged 3 – 12 are associated with higher happiness. The study does however acknowledge that the “effect of adult children has not yet been systematically investigated”.

The study also found that richer people are on average happier with being parents, and that parenthood is less problematic in the social democratic countries of Northern Europe where the states offers more child-support.

In a nutshell, having children is no guarantee of more happiness. This depends on the age of the child, the quality of the parenting couple and on the socio-economic background of the parents.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Jeffrey Sachs was a Nobel Laureate.