Friday, March 18, 2011

Having children - short-term struggles, long-term happiness

Parents of crying babies, temperamental toddlers and troublesome teenagers should draw comfort from a new study which shows that while having more children makes younger parents less happy the opposite is true for older parents. The World Value Surveys questioned more than 200,000 men and women between 1981 and 2005 and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany and the University of Pennsylvania have been analysing the results. They found that for parents under 30 levels of happiness decreased with their first child and with every additional child. Mums and dads between 30 and 40 were as happy as their childless peers unless they had four or more children in which case they were less happy. After 40 parents were happier than childless couples unless they had three or more children and people over 50 were happier if they had children, regardless of how many they had. The researchers concluded that after the rigours of rearing young children the children themselves became a source of greater satisfaction and financial and emotional support to their parents. The difference between the levels of happiness of younger and older parents was less marked in countries with more generous welfare systems. So for parents suffering sleepless nights, the terrible twos or staying up late to pick their kids up from the school disco the message is - keep going it will be worth it in the end!

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