Does parenthood suck the joy out of life, or is it the key to happiness?
It looks like it's a draw: People with children in the home are about as satisfied with their lives as those who don't have kids at home, a new study suggests.
"Parents tend to value their lives more highly than people without kids, but they're different in lots of ways: They're richer; they're better educated; they're healthier," said study co-author Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton University. "Once you control for those things, there's essentially no difference in life evaluation."
The findings, published today (Jan. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that people who choose one lifestyle over another will be pretty satisfied with their decision.
"People who have children, by and large, want children," Deaton told LiveScience. "People who don't want children are people who, by and large, don't want to have children. And why would you expect one set to be happier than another?" (7 Things That Will Make You Happy)
Studies on parenthood have come up with conflicting results. Some studies show that for young parents, happiness declines with the birth of each additional kid but that people with big families have more joy in midlife. Other studies have found that parents are happier than nonparents. And still other work has found that children put a damper on marital satisfaction.
Deaton and his colleague Arthur Stone, a psychiatry researcher at Stony Brook University in New York, looked at Gallup survey data from 1.8 million Americans, as well as from 1.07 million people in 161 countries throughout the world.
Survey participants indicated whether they had children in the home and answered several other questions, including one in which they rated their lives using a ladder scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best life possible and 0 being the worst. They also answered questions about whether they felt happiness, smiling, anger, worry and other emotions "a lot" or "not" the day before.