Will not having children make you miserable?
Will having children make you happier?
Will not having children make your happier?
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a clear-cut answer, because although there’s been tonnes of scientific research on this subject, there are so very many factors that come into play which makes getting an overall measurement so difficult and as a result, some studies say overall: yes, some say overall: no. It depends on how you measure it and which variables you do or don’t control for. Fortunately, there are some useful takeaways I have found from the research, I’ll list them below.
Being poor, unmarried, divorced or having an unplanned pregnancy leads to greater depression
Minton & Pasley (1996)
Cunningham & Knoester (2007)
Keeton, Perry-Jenkins, & Sayer (2008)
Having a child with a “difficult” temperament increases rates of depression in parents
Cutrona & Troutman (1986)
Fatherhood can make you happier and sadder at the same time
Chalmers & Meyer (1996)
Holding traditional views about the division of labor made for happier husbands but unhappier wives
L. K. White, Booth, & Edwards (1986)
Having greater social support decreases depression
Bost, Cox, & Payne (2002)
Childless elders aren’t psychologically worse off
According to a 2010 study in Aging and Mental Health:
The best study to read to get a sense of all this, is this meta-analysis:
So, from a happiness point of view, should you have children? Well, if you’re lacking in age, social supports, money and a marriage that looks like it will last another 40 years… it would seem that your best bet would be to get those things before having children as otherwise they will probably make you unhappier.
But It strikes me that a lot of the benefits people experience from parenting, people could experience without parenting. A greater sense of pride and purpose could be achieved through being a more active member of your community, volunteering more or getting a more meaningful job, for example. And the greater pleasure experienced from spending time with a child could instead be spent on other activities one enjoys, especially since parents ranked spending time with children as only their 9th most pleasurable experience.
So is parenthood a death sentence to your happiness? Not if you’re a bit older, have social supports, money, a marriage that will withstand the hurricane that is children, and provided your child doesn’t have a “difficult” temperament and that it was actually planned.
And is non-parenthood a death sentence to your happiness? Not if you get your sense of purpose and fun from other activities.