The mixed blessing of children

New York Magazine has a truly excellent article on why having children tends to make people less happy. This result has come up in numerous studies but the article carefully explores this counter-intuitive finding in all the depth it deserves, reflecting on the changing culture and expectations of parenting.

The article starts with this lovely bit of academic trivia:

The idea that parents are less happy than nonparents has become so commonplace in academia that it was big news last year when the Journal of Happiness Studies published a Scottish paper declaring the opposite was true. “Contrary to much of the literature,” said the introduction, “our results are consistent with an effect of children on life satisfaction that is positive, large and increasing in the number of children.” Alas, the euphoria was short-lived. A few months later, the poor author discovered a coding error in his data, and the publication ran an erratum. “After correcting the problem,”it read,“the main results of the paper no longer hold. The effect of children on the life satisfaction of married individuals is small, often negative, and never statistically significant.”

However, the article questions what it means to say someone is ‘happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with their life and explores whether these studies are genuinely measuring the rich experience of parenting.

The piece explores how cultural expectations of parenting, and indeed, childhood, have changed and what practical implications this has had for day-to-day childcare.

It is one of those rare articles that combines scientific studies with personal experiences, without confusing the two and while using each to complement the other.

In-depth, wonderfully written and worth putting time aside for.

Link to New York Magazine ‘All Joy and No Fun’

One Comment

  1. Posted July 9, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    It was a fairly good article I don’t think it was that good. One of the things it mentions is how difficult children can be to look after. Now I don’t have any children, but in all honesty couldn’t one of the reasons why people are enjoying parenting less be due to selfishness?
    If we look at the media aren’t some of the most popular programs Pop idol, American Idol, Britain‚Äôs got Talent etc. Sportsmen and pop stars are more popular than doctors. Think about it for a second, a doctor will save a person’s life but is nowhere near as popular as an athlete. What does that say about us as human beings and about our values? A lot of our society seems to prioritize self-gratification wouldn’t that makes us more selfish? I‚Äôm not saying these things are inherently bad but I do think we give them more importance than we should.
    The article may well be right and it does seem to me a lot of parents don’t really want to have children. I ‘m pretty sure that is one reason why a lot of the youth seem to be so dysfunctional. I think this is an obvious reason why people are enjoying parenting less and the article does not address it at all.


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