Science and Tech


No, Parenting Likely Won't Make You Miserable

Despite the trend in news and psychological studies, a meta analysis suggests parents aren't less happy than nonparents.
Posted at 3:00 PM, Oct 05, 2017

If you read the headlines and psychological studies on parenthood, it might seem like parents hate being parents. But a closer look at the issue shows the studies' methodologies are the problem, not parenthood.

Numerous studies have found that, on average, parents report significantly lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction compared with people who aren't parents. One study found that the effect of a new baby on a person's life is worse than divorce, unemployment and even the death of a loved one. In short, a new bundle of joy is one of the worst things that can happen to you.

But where does this unhappiness come from? A Washington Post article points to the lack of support from the government, including things like paid leave and subsidized child care, as well as the enormous cost associated with raising a child in the U.S.

Another article highlights the negative environmental effects of having a child, like contributing to overpopulation and global pollution.

But maybe parents really aren't all that miserable. Reviews of past parenting studies found flaws in their methods. Some asked general questions about life satisfaction that didn't even address a person's feelings about being a parent. And most treated parents like one big homogeneous group. Their "evidence" was nothing more than an average of the collected responses.

But experts have determined not all parents can be grouped together and that doing so leads to misleading data.

Theanalyses of past studies foundhaving children comes with both negatives and positives, depending on specific factors like marital and economic status. If you include specifics like these, the researchers found 84 percent of parents don't experience any significant change in satisfaction. Only 7 percent reported a decline in happiness, while 4 percent saw improvement.

So take those headlines with a grain of salt. Sure, there's the crying, the diapers and the long nights, but a closer look at the studies that say parenting sucks shows that it's really not that bad and that, for the most part, parents are still pretty happy.