Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

Are Children a Source of Misery or Joy?

Are parents more or less happy than non-parents? Research provides an answer.

In recent years, we have heard a great deal about the stresses and strains of parenting, but we also hear about the joys of parenting. So, are children a source of misery or joy for parents?

A recent series of studies by psychologist and PT blogger Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues suggest that parents (and especially fathers) experience more happiness and well-being than do their childless counterparts.

In a national survey, it was found that among married couples, parents were happier and more satisfied with their lives than non-parents, although it was mostly due to fathers’ increased happiness. There were some caveats, however, as unmarried parents and single parents reported lower happiness. In addition older parents reported more happiness and satisfaction than did younger parents (ages 17-25).

In two additional studies, the researchers confirmed that parenting was a source of happiness and especially meaning in life, but again, it was stronger among fathers than mothers, perhaps because mothers have more of the domestic housework and childcare work to do. The researchers conclude that parenting is a source of life meaning, so the positives of parenting outweigh the negatives.

 

Nelson, S.K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E.W., & Lyubormirsky, S. In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery. Forthcoming article in the journal, Psychological Science, published by SAGE press.

 

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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