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Parents less happy than childless peers

rivrrat

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Why Parents Hate Parenting -- New York Magazine

rom the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines. Perhaps the most oft-cited datum comes from a 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist, who surveyed 909 working Texas women and found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.) This result also shows up regularly in relationship research, with children invariably reducing marital satisfaction.


A few generations ago, people weren’t stopping to contemplate whether having a child would make them happy. Having children was simply what you did. And we are lucky, today, to have choices about these matters. But the abundance of choices—whether to have kids, when, how many—may be one of the reasons parents are less happy.

That was at least partly the conclusion of psychologists W. Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge, who, in 2003, did a meta-analysis of 97 children-and-marital-satisfaction studies stretching back to the seventies. Not only did they find that couples’ overall marital satisfaction went down if they had kids; they found that every successive generation was more put out by having them than the last—our current one most of all. Even more surprisingly, they found that parents’ dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care. “And my hypothesis about why this is, in both cases, is the same,” says Twenge. “They become parents later in life. There’s a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.” (Or, as a fellow psychologist told Gilbert when he finally got around to having a child: “They’re a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to ****.”)

And couples probably pay the dearest price of all. Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships. As Thomas Bradbury, a father of two and professor of psychology at UCLA, likes to say: “Being in a good relationship is a risk factor for becoming a parent.” He directs me to one of the more inspired studies in the field, by psychologists Lauren Papp and E. Mark Cummings. They asked 100 long-married couples to spend two weeks meticulously documenting their disagreements. Nearly 40 percent of them were about their kids.

“And that 40 percent is merely the number that was explicitly about kids, I’m guessing, right?” This is a former patient of Nachamie’s, an entrepreneur and father of two. “How many other arguments were those couples having because everyone was on a short fuse, or tired, or stressed out?” This man is very frank about the strain his children put on his marriage, especially his firstborn. “I already felt neglected,” he says. “In my mind, anyway. And once we had the kid, it became so pronounced; it went from zero to negative 50. And I was like, I can deal with zero. But not negative 50.”
 

Aunt Spiker

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These types of studies and reports highly amuse me. They spend a lot of time to discover things that we already knew!

Now - I have no peers (no friends) so I'm quite blissful.
 

ReverendHellh0und

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It's only repeating what dozens of studies have shown. Why is it pathetic? Did you even read it?



And couples probably pay the dearest price of all. Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships


Oh woah is us.... :lol:
 

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I found this particular statement highly amusing, since it is so lacking in basic human understanding. ....."found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.) This result also shows up regularly in relationship research, with children invariably reducing marital satisfaction. "

How stupid can you get, anyway? Does this "researcher" actually think that parents' only source of hapiness with their children comes from the day to day administration of child care? It's garbage in, garbage out time for this one, for if you cannot formulate the right sort of question to ask, the answers you receive will only lead you to bogus conclusions.
 

Aunt Spiker

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Children only affect relationship when you define your relationship according to non-child-having standards and freedoms.
If you don't set your sights too high you won't be let down or disappointed.

But I can't talk from experience - I've been a mother since I was 17. I have no idea what it's like to have a free and normal 'non-child' life - so I have no concept of "when I was free to do whatever I wanted!" to bring me down a notch or depress me. Because of this constant 'parent-state' I involve my kids in a lot of what we do - trips and everything else - and I get a thrill when they're happy and get along. I'm uncomfortable without them around, really - sometimes my parent's watch the kids for a night per request of my husband which leaves me feeling lost and bored . . . I absolutely *need* them around to keep life interesting and constantly in motion.

I can't see how people can be happy - I see a single's or a childless life and think it's quite terribly boring. but I've never been one to want to go places and do a lot of things - so if I didn't have kid's I'd sit around and be a dork playing video game and making maille.
 

rivrrat

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Children only affect relationship when you define your relationship according to non-child-having standards and freedoms.
If you don't set your sights too high you won't be let down or disappointed.

But I can't talk from experience - I've been a mother since I was 17. I have no idea what it's like to have a free and normal 'non-child' life - so I have no concept of "when I was free to do whatever I wanted!" to bring me down a notch or depress me. Because of this constant 'parent-state' I involve my kids in a lot of what we do - trips and everything else - and I get a thrill when they're happy and get along. I'm uncomfortable without them around, really - sometimes my parent's watch the kids for a night per request of my husband which leaves me feeling lost and bored . . . I absolutely *need* them around to keep life interesting and constantly in motion.

I can't see how people can be happy - I see a single's or a childless life and think it's quite terribly boring. but I've never been one to want to go places and do a lot of things - so if I didn't have kid's I'd sit around and be a dork playing video game and making maille.

It's the difference between me and my sister. She got pregnant at 18. I was already traveling around at 18. I've traveled the word, done more things than I could even attempt to account for in this small paragraph. I've experienced much, and will experience much more. My sister has NEVER had that freedom - by choice, mind you. She was born to be a mother, and she loves her kids dearly. But she envies my freedom. She wishes she'd waited a little longer to have the kids. She is lonely, frustrated and exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. While I know she envies the fact that I can fly to Vegas any weekend I wish and party, or to the Bahamas, or wherever, or quit my job and move across the country in a matter of days, or take off into the wilderness for weeks at a time... she could not live like that NOW. Because NOW, she would miss the very aspect of her life that prevents her from doing those things. And that's because of her love for them. It's a conundrum that keeps her from being really happy as often as she should be. She has happy moments, but overall? She is not happy. She feels *obligated* to WANT to be with the kids and guilty when she doesn't feel like being with them. It's a viscous cycle that puts a damper on any fun she tries to have without them.

Me? I would just as soon slit my wrists as to live her life. I know what I would be giving up, and I don't WANT to give it up. The fact that I know myself well enough to KNOW that I would resent a child is the reason I don't have any. I have moments where I consider it, and my mother assures me that I would not resent it as much as I think I would. But even she has told us that she wishes she'd waited before having us. That she missed out on "being young" because of her choice to have us, and my sister feels the same way. So, how could I possibly take their word for it when they are living contradictions? LOL

They see me and realize what they're missing. I see them and realize how happy I am I never made the choices they did. I'd have to say, overall... I'm definitely happier than they are. And, they'd have to agree even though they'd feel guilty agreeing. Which is why so many parents get angry when they read studies like this. I fully expected parents here to react pretty violently to the article. It's to be expected.

I'll be honest, as a childless woman looking in on people with kids, I don't see happiness overall. I see and hear frustration, anger, exhaustion, financial difficulty, relationship problems, sexual problems, resentment.... with moments of happiness in there, of course.
 
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Aunt Spiker

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What's really tragic in all of this is that people, like my sister, don't realize the wonderful thing they have when they have it, until it's gone and too late to get it back.

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone"

I think it's a classic issue found in all sorts of things - having children is just one of those areas.
 
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rivrrat

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What's really tragic in all of this is that people, like your sister, don't realize the wonderful thing they have when they have it, until it's gone and too late to get it back.

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone"

I think it's a classic issue found in all sorts of things - having children is just one of those areas.

You're not understanding, she would be devastated if she lost her kids for some reason, or if something happened to them. There's no 'going back' for her now. She loves them with all of her heart, they are her world. But because of that, she is lonely, continually frustrated, continually exhausted in all aspects, unable to have a moment's peace or any time for herself at all, financially strapped, and sexually frustrated.
 

Aunt Spiker

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You're not understanding, she would be devastated if she lost her kids for some reason, or if something happened to them. There's no 'going back' for her now. She loves them with all of her heart, they are her world. But because of that, she is lonely, continually frustrated, continually exhausted in all aspects, unable to have a moment's peace or any time for herself at all, financially strapped, and sexually frustrated.

Sorry, my faux pas!
I meant "like MY sister" - not what I wrote: "like YOUR sister"

Our sisters are polar opposites :) so sorry!!
 

Kernel Sanders

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You've gotta be careful with assigning causation. What factors might influence both happiness and having children? On average, well-educated middle-to-upper-class Americans have disproportionately less children whereas less-educated lower-class Americans have disproportionately more children. Single mothers are another angle. Do the factors that lead to a woman being a single mother tend to contribute to her being unhappy as well? I could probably think of a half a dozen other sources of correlation as well.
 

rivrrat

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You've gotta be careful with assigning causation. What factors might influence both happiness and having children? On average, well-educated middle-to-upper-class Americans have disproportionately less children whereas less-educated lower-class Americans have disproportionately more children. Single mothers are another angle. Do the factors that lead to a woman being a single mother tend to contribute to her being unhappy as well? I could probably think of a half a dozen other sources of correlation as well.

Actually, the report indicated that those with more money were more unhappy. (with kids)
 

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You're not understanding, she would be devastated if she lost her kids for some reason, or if something happened to them. There's no 'going back' for her now. She loves them with all of her heart, they are her world. But because of that, she is lonely, continually frustrated, continually exhausted in all aspects, unable to have a moment's peace or any time for herself at all, financially strapped, and sexually frustrated.

This is the case with a lot of parents, I think.
And the thing is, kids do go away.
If you do your job right, they go off and live their own lives eventually.
They may still be the center of your life- for those of us who have been parents longer than we've been adults, we don't really know any other way to live, than for our lives to revolve around our children- but you will not be the center of theirs. You will be decidedly peripheral.
 

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All I can say is that I love my son, and that he is one of the greatest joys of my life. Do we have our not-so-great
moments? Sure. But I wouldn't trade him for a 100 million dollars and a personal executive jet. :mrgreen:

I love being a father. I love teaching my son things: not only skills, but things about life. Watching him grow into a fine young man has been more satisfying than anything else in my life... and yes, I spent an adult decade roaming the world free and unfettered, I've traveled and had adventures, and while all that was way cool, being a father is better.

Heck I'm thinking about marrying a chick half my age and having three or four more. :mrgreen:
 
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ReverendHellh0und

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All I can say is that I love my son, and that he is one of the greatest joys of my life. Do we have our not-so-great
moments? Sure. But I wouldn't trade him for a 100 million dollars and a personal executive jet. :mrgreen:

I love being a father. I love teaching my son things: not only skills, but things about life. Watching him grow into a fine young man has been more satisfying than anything else in my life... and yes, I spent an adult decade roaming the world free and unfettered, I've traveled and had adventures, and while all that was way cool, being a father is better.

Heck I'm thinking about marrying a chick half my age and having three or four more. :mrgreen:





This



My son is only one. But a lifetime of heartbreaking and life taking pales in comparison to this.
 

Goshin

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This



My son is only one. But a lifetime of heartbreaking and life taking pales in comparison to this.



+1.

I'm tempted, in response to the OP, to say something radical and paradigm-shattering like "If you aren't enjoying being a parent, you're doing it wrong." :mrgreen:



(Caveat: if your child is 2 or 3 years old, or 13, you are temporarily excused. Those years tend to kinda suck no matter how good you are. lol)
 

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“Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”
that sums it up
also noticed that parents are less likely to be depressed than their childless counterparts
the only problem in the USA which needs to be addressed more than the legitimacy of buying politicians is the poor state of parenting
as the article points out, those parents who reside in countries which have more social program are less stressed than those in the USA. to me, that indicates if we want to do a better job raising our kids we need a wider social safety net
we also incentivize single mothers having children out of wedlock by providing housing and a stipend for them if they do have a child; we increase the housing allowance and stipend if they have multiple children
and then there are parents who should never have children. many of them are the children of bad parents. we learn to parent from our own parents
our education system focuses more on providing driving skills than it does the life skills - and decision-making. maybe having child care centers co-located with high schools, and requiring every student to spend time as a caregiver, might expose the soon to be adults to the downside of caring for children. hell, let's require them to get a permit before they can have kids, providing proof of support. to fish one must have a license authorizing that activity ... but anyone can have a kid. go figure
for me, waiting until i was 33 until my first, was the key. by that time i had had an opportunity to enjoy my young adulthood and selfishly be concerned only with my own needs. having children was the best thing that ever happened to me. but my childless friends also seem to be happy being without kids, too. my youngest is 21 and about to graduate from college. my near empty nest was happier with kids in it
 
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