VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 25, 2012 ( – Researchers at three North American universities have found that people who have children “report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life” than people who do not.

The study, published in Psychological Science and co-written by scholars at the University of British Columbia, University of California Riverside, and Stanford University, comes as Western countries face a growing crisis of low birth rates as many have opted to postpone having children or avoid them altogether rather than take on the demands of parenting.

Psychology Prof. Elizabeth Dunn of UBC says their research suggests that “parents are not nearly the ‘miserable creatures’ we might expect from recent studies and popular representations.”

“If you went to a large dinner party, our findings suggest that the parents in the room would be as happy or happier than those guests without children,” she said.

The findings are based on a series of surveys conducted in 1982, 1990, 1995, and 1999 with 329 participants ranging in age from 17 to 96.

The results suggest that parents are happier caring for children than they are during other daily activities. They also suggest that greater happiness depends on the maturity and circumstances of the family.

“We find that if you are older (and presumably more mature) and if you are married (and presumably have more social and financial support), then you’re likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers,” said co-author Sonja Lyubomirsky of UC Riverside.

“Interestingly, the greater levels of parental happiness emerged more consistently in fathers than mothers,” Prof. Dunn noted.

“Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life,” says Lyubomirsky.

The study can be found here.


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