Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why kids make couples happy

T'S confirmed: having kids makes you happy.
So why do parents spend so much time moaning about their kids? Three American studies of more than 7000 parents and non-parents have found children are associated with more joy than misery.

Having kids makes us more satisfied with life, give us more positive emotion and make our lives feel more meaningful, according to a coming Psychological Science journal article.

The findings are an abrupt reversal of current wisdom that those who are child-free are more satisfied with their lot in life.


By 2016, couple-only families will be the most common family type, overtaking couples with kids, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show.

There are many people who could have kids but choose not to, and I am glad to see the childless-by-choice brigade fight back.

As one writer, Shelly Horton, tells anyone who asks whether she wants kids: "Look I like kids, I just couldn't eat a whole one."

Horton feels she has to constantly explain and justify her decision not to have kids. She's right: a woman who tells a dinner party packed with parents she's single or childless by choice is usually viewed with suspicion and pity.

We shouldn't forget that in many ways, the childless are the invisible backbone of our society.

AIFS research shows childless couples that work full time make a net contribution to society of about $333 a week.

It's no wonder there's increasing resentment out there against the growing demands of parents who want more money from the Government to help them raise their kids.

Parents should continue to fight for our rights, and for better childcare, kinders, schools, family benefits and health care.

But we should also be grateful for the wonderful gift of our kids. And we shouldn't for one minute forget that working childless adults are paying to help us raise them.

The notion that the child-free are happier isn't just "current wisdom", it has been demonstrated in tons of research. So I'll need more than a vague reference to an upcoming article to believe they have somehow been disproved. For example, are they including those people who are miserable because they want kids and can't have them? Their experiences tell us nothing about how happy our choices make us.

The journalist seems fairly pro-CBC, so I don't know why she paints this one study as bigger than it is. Until I read more, I'm sticking with Daniel Gilbert's research, which indicates that we're not very good at remembering or predicting what makes us happy on a moment to moment basis, and whose research indicates parenting is not a font of joy. That's another possible flaw in the study mentioned - how did they measure happiness at all? Did they fail to correct for selective memory and its ilk?

I'll get back to you when the study is published for proper dissection.

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