I recently read an article titled “Think having children will make you happy?” that discusses studies correlating happiness and having children. Some studies show that parents and non-parents have the same level of happiness. But other studies show that non-parents are happier. So, do children make us less happy?
There are two major reasons that kids might make people less happy in a long run. First, children require a lot of resources; they put a strain on our budget, time and careers. As my friend Sue Katz puts it: parental unhappiness could stem from poverty, illness, fighting the educational institutions, feeling stuck in a violent relationship because of the kids — a million things, depending on class and options.
Second, children might not live up to our expectations. Parents often dream that their children will have wonderful careers, be supportive of their parents later in life and most importantly be good people. But in reality, children choose their own careers, not necessarily a path approved by their parents. Plus they might live at a distance or the relationship might be strained. They might even develop completely different values from their parents.
The article claims that on average kids will bring more problems than joy to our lives. Do not rush to cancel unprotected sex with your spouse tonight yet.
My friend Peggy Boning suggested that the study should have separately checked parents who wanted children and parents who didn’t. It could be that parents who didn’t want children are less happy than parents who wanted them. Which means that if you do not want children, make sure you have protected sex. If you do want children, you might be happier with children than without.
Anyone who has studied statistics knows that correlation doesn’t mean causality. An individual who wants to have children might be happier as a result, and at the same time the statistics data may well be true. I’d like to find arguments that can make peace between these two suppositions.
- Younger people are more often childless than older people. If studies do not differentiate by age and younger people are generally happier than older people, than we might see parents less happy, because they are older on average.
- I am sure that suicidal people are more likely to actually kill themselves if no one depends on them. Thus, the most unhappy segment of childless people will have died out, while unhappy people with children will drag on.
- Some very happy people might be self-centered and do not want children.
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