Kids for Happiness? Perhaps not.

Here’s an interesting write up taken from a number of sources that seems to strongly suggest that perhaps parents are not happier than the childless, though personally I prefer the term child-free.

Anyway, I don’t have much to add to this one. I just thought I’d share.

Culture | True or False: Having Kids Makes You Happy

Thanks to Jan for a great find.


10 Responses to Kids for Happiness? Perhaps not.

  1. Higghawker says:

    As a father of two boys, I cannot speak for the child-free, but there has been nothing more rewarding in my life than spending time with my offspring. My family brings me 100% happiness!

  2. Glad to hear it. Keep in mind the study shows a small but definitely significant difference in the percentage of happy families with and without children. Of course, both sides have their happy people and not so happy people.

    For those who are unsure of which way they would be happier, one thing to consider might also be the difference between regretting not having children and regretting having children. One way screws up your own life a bit. The other will screw up the lives of your children as well.

    But, of course, that’s just an opinion from the child-free side.

  3. Amy Jo says:

    As a parent surely there is an occasional want for “freedom”; but I think it is a very rare person who regrets their actual child(ren). I would go so far as to say that a person who has a child and then resents that child overall has some deep issues and is pretty darn selfish anyway… likely the type to end up a miserable bloke either way.

    Being a (good) parent involves many sacrifices and difficult decisions but parenthood overall builds patience, character, selflessness and maturity in those who are willing to accept the lessons. It has been the most challenging aspect of my life thus far, but its rewards continue to be immeasurable.

    Either way, it is an intensely personal decision. I have to admit though, no grandchildren filling up my home in the future is a depressing thought, one I hope not to be forced to contend with.

  4. Amy Jo,

    As I noted in my post, the difference between the happiness of those with and without children is only 7%. However, this is statistically significant. I think that what happens for a lot of people is they grow up, get married, and pop out a litter of kids without really thinking about any of it because that’s just what people do.

    Certainly it is a highly personal choice. I just wonder if for a lot of people they never really consider it as an option.

    I too doubt many people would admit to regretting their kids. However, that does not mean that they do not regret them. There are probably many who simply feel dissatisfied with their lot in life and will never consider the reason, especially if they did not view reproduction as a choice in the first place.

    Perhaps we’d all be better off if the line had been ‘be useful and multiplex.’ Then, people would understand that reproduction is indeed a choice. And, like vasectomy, it is generally permanent.

  5. bobbo says:

    Some years ago I had two work place friends of the same age and general background as myself and all three of us got married while at this new employer.

    I stayed child free and happy.

    Couple one had a kid with Downs Syndrome, spent all their money and time rearing the kid, went broke, got divorced, kid wound up in child services and died a few years later.

    Couple two aborted a child that had some problem (spina diffida?), waited another year to have a normal healthy child. They are still together and happy.

    Any article/study on the happiness of having kiddies should go into some analysis of who/what the kiddies are?

    Goes to your other thread about pro-choice being pro-life.

    I have shied away from having kiddies–too afraid they would be like my brothers and sisters.

  6. Interesting point. I would think that the healthy “normal” (whatever that means) children are a large enough majority that the severely unhealthy are statistically insignificant (they themselves are highly significant, just not a large enough number to account for a 7% difference in people reporting themselves as happy, I would think).

    At this point in history, it probably also makes sense to consider the happiness of any putative children that one may be contemplating. When today’s children are 42, there will be eight billion people on the planet. A billion of these people will be homeless as a direct result of climate change.

    Someone recently posted that there are already a billion homeless people in the world. I have not looked into this, so will not make that claim. However, with an eighth of the world’s population homeless, arable land in decline due to top soil erosion and aquifer depletion, ocean fish already 90% dead from overharvesting (already true for the fish we eat), fresh water in short supply, already becoming the case in many areas and likely to get worse in the areas that currently rely on snowmelt for their fresh water, I think the world will not be a place where said putative children can have a happy life.

    I really do believe that I have given my children the greatest gift I could, non-existence.

  7. bobbo says:

    Just because you touched on it, I will mention that having “a normal healthy child” was one of my fears. One of my sisters has an IQ of 100, the other 120. The “smart” one got into all kinds of trouble because she didn’t fit in and had emotional issues. After a bad marriage (her fault) and rehab (her fault) she finally got her life in order and her kids are ok. No fun for our mother.

    Now, the 100 IQ sister has always been “nice” but a total pain to be around, too stupid to have an opinion on anything except for teaching grade school which is all she can do. An uber-kindergarten teacher and nothing else really. Married another dumb shit preacher and they are happy doing good work.

    Personally, I would be shattered to have to deal with a lifetime of normal intellectually unchallenging kiddies. I don’t think the fact that they were “mine” would get me over such a hurdle. I would be seen as “remote and uninvolved” but that would only be a thin cover for the fact that I didn’t like my kiddies as people. I see this in most of my friends kids. I only like about 10% of them.

    Bad odds for any parent. So, I have done the responsible thing, same as you, but for entirely selfish reasons. Who is more virtuous?

  8. bobbo,

    I’m going to have to agree with you on that one. Excellent point. Average intelligence is pretty damn stupid. And, I’m not even going to claim that I’m not stupid. I know my IQ, though don’t really believe it’s a valid measure of much. You won’t catch my name on the next impressive new scientific theory.

    I’m glad just to be able to understand some of the work of the truly intelligent people on the planet. That list of real intelligence is damn short though.

    Even assuming my kids were to come out with whatever level of intelligence I have, or better yet, my wife’s, I probably wouldn’t really want to be around them much. Until they reach adulthood, there’s little likelihood of them contributing meaningfully to a conversation, especially since they’d have such a crappy father that even with good raw brain power, they might be assholes.

    A parent should be willing to give up whatever it takes to do all they can for their kids. I’m not.

    My wife had an excellent observation. Good parents live to make their kids lives the best they can be and to make the kids happy. Then the kids grow up and do the same for their kids. When does anyone actually get to be happy themselves?

  9. bobbo says:

    Well, raising kiddies is much like being married isn’t it? If you see the “work” it takes as interfering with your own life, then you shouldn’t get married. If you see the work it takes as having worthwhile tradeoffs/benefits and fulfilling yourself, then you can give it a go.

    Same with kiddies. I very much enjoyed being around my girlfriends 1-2-3 year old boy. Watching him learn to walk, talk etc was fun and I felt close to him. I have watched some of my other friends suffer with the love life/lack of ambition/wants a car antics of their 17 year olds. Even the very good ones could be put on an island by themselves for good effect. So–a few early years, a few later years–worth the effort? Not to me.

    That same girlfriend told me her own father had surprised her one day saying he had not wanted kiddies. He loved his wife and the kids came naturally. I made the mistake of agreeing with her father–one of the few times I had. (smile!)

    There must be a Darwinian weeding out process for us? I’d think people who don’t want kids would be less likely to breed and over time we would become a child loving species. Maybe what we have today is exactly what that looks like with the winnowing process ongoing.

    Too bad more people don’t make a real choice of it rather than going with the flow?

  10. Good points. Yes. More people should definitely consider the options very carefully rather than going with the flow. When I got my vasectomy, the doctor asked if I was really sure since some people do end up going back for the more expensive, more difficult, less reliable procedure to reconnect their vas deferens. He wanted to make sure that I knew that it was likely permanent.

    I pointed out that so is having kids and someone should sit down with prospective parents and make sure they really want their kids. Undoing that choice is likely more difficult and would get one sent to jail for a long time.

    When I told my mother that she already had all of the grandchildren she was going to get (2 from my sister), she was disappointed and said she had wanted 4 kids of her own instead of only two.

    When I told my father that I was not having any children, he said it was very interesting that people could make that choice today. When he was younger, if a couple didn’t have children, everyone knew something was wrong and felt sorry for them.

    I realized after that conversation that my father probably didn’t want any children if he had been in a culture that allowed such a choice. Interesting.

    I once heard that if your parents didn’t have children, it is very unlikely that you will.

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