I saw a great show on public television called “This Emotional Life.” It is part of a three part series. Last night’s part was called “Family, Friends and Lovers” and looks at the importance of relationships and why they are central to emotional well-being.
When talking about family and marriage, the show stated some interesting information on marriages with no children vs marriages with children, and who is happier. It indicated that while marriages with no children tended to be happier, those with children tended to stay in the marriage longer. In other words, if the marriage was having problems the ones with kids were more likely to try and hang in there.
The show did not go into detail about childfree couples. For example–does this mean that when faced with marital challenges childfree couples are more likely to choose divorce sooner than married parents? On the surface this might make some sense, as the couple does not have to deal with all the issues that come with children and divorce. But this does not mean that childfree couples are more likely to jump ship without first staying in there and give it all they have to make it work.
Does it mean that childfree couples are more likely in general to divorce more than couples with children? I have not seen research on this, but would hypothesize the answer is no. Childfree couples don’t have the distraction of children that can get in the way of dealing with issues or just in tending to the relationship. I would like to see research on “if there is divorce “when” is it more likely to occur in marriages with and without children.
There is research out there on marital satisfaction for married couples with kids and without. Marriages without children tend to experience a gradual increase in satisfaction over time. For marriages with children, there is a dip in satisfaction when kids come on the scene, and as the kids get older the levels of satisfaction begin to rise again. So one is not more likely to be happier than the other, it’s just that the cycles of satisfaction tend to look differently.
What do you see out there? If you know of research that speaks to these topics and questions, please share!