Though parents around the world are likely to believe their lives have been enhanced by their children, studies have found that the stress of parenting can put a strain on marriages. Now, a new study has found that having children may not affect life satisfaction one way of the other.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that children are not a large factor in the self-reported life satisfaction of Americans aged 34 yo 46. Though parents are more likely to rate their life satisfaction higher, the studies authors found that factors such as education, income, health, and religiosity are more likely to affect life satisfaction than having children.
“It is simply a mistake to presume that because people deliberately want children and deliberately bring them into being that those people with children should have better lives,” said Angus Deaton, lead author of the study and an economist at Princeton University. “Non-parents are not ‘failed’ parents, and parents are not ‘failed’ non-parents. Some people like oranges, and some like apples, and we do not think that orange eaters should have better or worse lives than apple eaters.”
Though children may not increase life satisfaction for parents, it does seem that they do have a significant effect on their parents’ emotional lives. Deaton and his colleagues found that parents are more likely to experience emotional highs, but are also susceptible to extreme emotional lows as well. The study revealed that emotions of happiness, worry, enjoyment, stress, anger, and “smiling” were all experienced more by parents, though their overall life satisfaction was similar to that of non-parents.
“Life evaluation is not the same as experienced emotions, such as happiness, enjoyment, sadness, worry or stress,” said Deaton. “The results show that, no matter what else is taken into account, parents experience more of all of these than nonparents. There are good days and bad, ups and downs.”