Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Are Parents Really Happier Than Childfree Adults?

New research says parents are more satisfied.

New research suggests that parents may be happier than their peers without kids—this conclusion goes directly against past data that showed childfree adults to have greater life satisfaction than parents. In fact, having kids has been linked to lower rates of marital happiness and also with depression. So, what’s behind these new findings? I read the fine print to see what the truth really is.

It may be about knowing what you want and taking action steps to create the life you desire.

With greater availability to reliable and safe birth control, many young women and couples are making sure that they don’t get pregnant without planning to do so. The IUD has made a comeback, and this contraceptive device truly makes family planning a breeze. Once a couple decides that they are ready to “get pregnant” the woman goes in to have her IUD removed; there are fewer “oops” babies caused by missed pills. The couple that has planned also is more likely to have set up their life together to ensure that they’re prepared financially and for the time demands that will come with parenting a young child. The study cited above showed that parenting couples who were older and married tended to be happier than their childfree peers, an association that did not show up among most single or very young parents. Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than their childfree counterparts. So, it makes sense that single teen moms and young couples who had no intention of having a child, but then became pregnant and had to figure out how they would handle the responsibility would report lower levels of life satisfaction than a childfree adult who consciously chose to not parent.

So, the findings that parents are happier than childfree adults is really speaking to a very specific group, rather than to all parents. Choosing a childfree life is becoming more accepted, partially due to the increased exposure in the media to childfree topics. I’m seeing it all over, in the movies and on line. Not having kids is becoming the choice for more and more, and it’s now common to contemplate this huge life decision rather than simply assuming that one will grow up, find a partner, and create a family with children. Plus, those of us who don’t have kids are speaking out about how satisfied we actually are with our decision.

Let’s work together to insure that everyone has life satisfaction!

Take a minute to sit back and truly contemplate your options. Imagine that your life is a car, with you solidly behind the wheel as opposed to sitting in the passenger’s seat simply riding along. Think about all the possible routes you might take over the coming years. Where would you like to live? What would you like to do for work? Do you have a yearning for further education, travel, or hobbies? How is your social life and what changes would you like to make? Take time to imagine what a perfect day and week would look like. Does this day involve caring for a child or children? Perhaps you see yourself having pets and living alone in a high-rise apartment. Or are you out in the country living a quiet life with your spouse by your side and little contact with the outside world? Your life is, for the most part, yours to create. Take time to make it what you want it to be.

If all adults feel free to choose their destiny and have the skills to do so, then both parents and nonparents will be able to report that they have high levels of life satisfaction.