Here we go again. An article on USAToday.com, “Parents are happier than non-parents, studies suggest” talks about two new studies that involve data from thousands of adults around the globe. Here is what researcher Chris Herbst of Arizona State University says is undeniable about the findings…
First a couple of quotes from the article that pop out at me that deserve question.
1. “The overall net effect of having children is positive.”
Ok, for parents who want children and have them, for many the net effect is positive. But does this mean the overall effect is negative if we don’t have kids? It can be negative if you don’t have them and want them, but what if you don’t have them because you don’t want them? From tracking those who have no children by choice for about 10 years now, I would say that the overall net effect of not having children if you don’t want them is positive!
2. “..happiness among non-parents has declined, thus making parents happier in comparison.”
Head scratch. Why has non-parent happiness declined? Because they don’t have kids? If it relates to not having kids, I would argue that this only accounts for those who have wanted them but don’t have them. What are other reasons for the decline? And why does the decline in one group automatically make the other happier?
What does Herbst say is undeniable? That “parents have become relatively happier than non-parents over the past few decades.”
Although “conventional wisdom that’s developed over the past few decades…has said parents are less happy, more depressed and have less-satisfying marriages” than their “childless counterparts” (Childless? Childfree? It is unclear), supposedly there have been problems with earlier studies (such as using “cross-sectional research methods that don’t take into account individual personality differences”), and the new studies are better.
I say there still are problems with the newer studies because they don’t take into account the reasons behind the non-parent status–which respondents were childLess? Temporarily childLess? Or childfree?
Studies and articles that report on them that don’t include or speak to these variables continue to reinforce the pronatalist notion that having kids is what makes us happy in life, when the reality is this is just not true for everyone. So many other factors go into what it means when we say we are happy–so can we put the debate to rest on whether the happiness buck stops with kids?