Does parenthood doom you to a life of stress and fatigue? Or are children truly “bundles of joy”?
Some studies have suggested that parenthood hurts happiness; others suggest the opposite. However, a paper recently published in the journal Psychological Bulletin paints a more nuanced picture: Sometimes parenthood is good for happiness — but not always. The authors suggest that the right question to ask is not whether parenthood leads to happiness, but rather when and how it does or doesn’t. Context is key.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers, led by S. Katherine Nelson from the University of California, Riverside, reviewed dozens of studies, primarily of Western cultures. The studies compared the happiness of parents and non-parents, examined changes in well-being during the transition to parenthood, and compared how parents feel while with their children to how they feel during other daily activities.
The upshot? It seems that being happy (or not) as a parent depends on characteristics of the parent and child, such as personality and age, as well as details about their situation, like socioeconomic status and the family’s structure.