Parents are happier than non-parents, new research suggests

New research by psychologists at three North American universities, including the University of British Columbia, finds that parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning from life than non-parents.

The findings, which contrast sharply with recent scholarship and popular beliefs, suggest that parents are happier caring for children than they are during other daily activities. The research also suggests that the benefits of parenthood appear more consistently in men and older and married parents.

To be published in the journal Psychological Science, the findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives than negatives, despite the added responsibilities. The research also dovetails with emerging evolutionary perspectives that suggest parenting may be a fundamental human need.

“This series of studies suggest that parents are not nearly the ‘miserable creatures’ we might expect from recent studies and popular representations,” says UBC Psychology Prof. Elizabeth Dunn, who co-authored the study with colleagues at the University of California, Riverside and Stanford University. “If you went to a large dinner party, our findings suggest that the parents in the room would be as happy or happier than those guests without children.”

Over three studies, the researchers tested whether parents are happier overall than their childless peers, if parents feel better moment-to-moment than non-parents, and whether parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities. The consistency of their findings, based on data and participants in both the U.S. and Canada, provides strong evidence challenging the notion that children are associated with reduced well-being, the researchers say.

The study identifies age and marital status as factors in parental happiness. “We find that if you are older (and presumably more mature) and if you are married (and presumably have more social and financial support), then you’re likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers,” says co-author Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside. “This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents.”

Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers. “Interestingly, the greater levels of parental happiness emerged more consistently in fathers than mothers,” says Dunn. “While more research is needed on this topic, it suggests that the pleasures of parenthood may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood,” she says.

The researchers also found that the stresses associated with single parenthood did not wipe out the greater feelings of meaning and reward associated with having children.

“We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning,” Lyubomirsky says. “Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life.”


The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.

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1 thought on “Parents are happier than non-parents, new research suggests”

  1. The boys in my class decided to go on strike because one of our teachers reckoned men should not be allowed to teach in schools because of the danger of child sexual abuse. We read her an article that proved women were just as bad as men, and she called Mrs Stone, the principal, and said we were spreading malicious lies about women and must be disciplined. So we got a weeks detention to teach us to respect women. Thats the logic of those bitches. Anyway, we just stayed away from school for a week. Mum tried to make me go but Dad said it was fine. He turned a nervous face to his father, who ruffled his hair affectionately. And then she said Dad was not a fit person to be trusted with bringing up a boy. I really, really hate her now.
    buy cake online The classmate hed told Marshall about was the same age as Mort. Quiet and tall with dead straight light brown hair, an incipient moustache he had to shave every third day, runners legs, wary hazel eyes and an extraordinary ability to be overlooked. When teams were picked for playground games, no one thought of Zoltan, who was not interested anyway. When teachers chose students for jobs, Zoltan was always left reading quietly in the back corner. Mort, however, had noticed the way Zoltan looked at him and began sitting beside him in class.
    What about you, Massimo? Hale interrupted. Do you agree?

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