Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do Kids Make You Happier?

According to new research, the answer is muddled.

On the one hand:

Parents report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids.
On the other hand:
The most recent comprehensive study on the emotional state of those with kids shows us that the term "bundle of joy" may not be the most accurate way to describe our offspring. "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."
I think of happiness as a combination of emotional well-being, positive emotions, purpose and meaning. I thought that they always traveled in the same direction. But, when it comes to kids it appears that emotional well-being and positive emotions go down while purpose and meaning go up. Interesting.

via Newsweek via The Fly Bottle


Audacious Epigone said...

Interesting that you tend to think happiness and purpose tend to go together? Optimistic, I suppose. I tend to be happiest when I'm doing things that have little purpose other than increasing my level of happiness!

Fat Knowledge said...

Yeah, I guess it really depends on how you define these terms.

I would think it general that people with purpose in their life are happier than people without purpose. Happiness here being life satisfaction.

On the other hand, when I am performing drudgerous unenjoyable work that I can see a purpose to, I am less happy then when I am ingesting an inebriating drink sans purpose. Happiness here being positive emotional well-being.

But, in general I think (hmm, I should look this up) high emotional well-being and life satisfaction are highly correlated. So, yeah, I am surprised that with children they go in opposite directions. :)

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