Clarance Darrow said, "The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children." Scientific study seems to back him up.
In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness" the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child--and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids.
Anecdotal evidence says no. In pre-industrial America, parents certainly loved their children, but their offspring also served a purpose--to work the farm, contribute to the household. Children were a necessity. Today, we have kids more for emotional reasons, but an increasingly complicated work and social environment has made finding satisfaction far more difficult.
A key study by University of Wisconsin-Madison's Sara McLanahan and Julia Adams, conducted some 20 years ago, found that parenthood was perceived as significantly more stressful in the 1970s than in the 1950s; the researchers attribute part of that change to major shifts in employment patterns.
For the childless, all this research must certainly feel redeeming. As for those of us with kids, well, the news isn't all bad. Parents still report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids.
Steve Jobs has just passed away and one report said a friend had asked him if he was glad he had kids. His reply, "It's 10,000 times better than anything I've ever done."
Jackie Kennedy-Onassis said,
I personally think I am happier than my friends without kids.
The above reports distinguish between sense of purpose and happiness, I think they are related, but I'm not a psychologist.
Return to Society