Having children DOESN'T make you happy: Becoming a parent only causes brief joy that 'wears off after a year'
- Researchers analysed data from 4 countries: UK, US, Germany and Australia
- They found the positive glow of parenthood only lasted for around 12 months
- After that time there was no improvement in 'subjective well being', they said
- But having a partner produces a positive effect that doesn't go away over time
Having children does not make us any happier a wide-ranging study of happiness found.
Looking at data from four countries: the UK, the US, Germany and Australia, researchers found that the positive glow of parenthood only lasted 12 months.
After that time there was no improvement in 'subjective well being'.
New research has found that the positive glow of parenthood only lasts for around 12 months
Andrew Clark, of the Paris School of Economics, and co-author of a the study presented at a conference in London yesterday said: 'We could not find systematically large effects [on well-being] from children.
'Is having a family good for you in the long run? Having a partnership is.
'We found a positive effect from having a partner that doesn't go away over time.'
We also rapidly adapt to the loss of a partner, either from separation or death, research finds.
'Following people from the four years from before separation and four years after separation, we found some kind of bouncing back.'
But when it comes to having children parents quickly adapt and it does not increase their subjective well being.
'Children are a great idea, thinking about having children is a good idea. Having them is a good idea.
'Having them is a good idea for up to 12 months.'
He said that the study only looked at the first four years, so further research might find benefits later down the line.
However, the researchers found a positive effect from having a partner that doesn't seem to go away over time
'What we don't have evidence here is evidence over 20-30 or 40 years, for when we get old and we need taking care of.
'We hope this will become positive at some point.'
In the research, entitled 'The Origin of Happiness' by Professor Clark and Professor Richard Layard and others, the authors said unlike having a spouse or partner, which 'brings joy', having a child is difficult to measure.
They write 'To a degree people who want children more get more children, just as people who like classical music are more likely to listen to it.
'So if we compare people with and without children we may be just comparing people with different tastes, without discovering what difference the children made to those who had them.'
So to find out, they compared people's happiness, both mothers and fathers, before and after when they had children.
Overall, having a child raised life satisfaction by 0.25 points on a scale of 1 to 10 among British parents, with 10 being the most satisfaction.
But the joy fades to zero within two years, the authors write, and a similar effect was also found in Australia and Germany as well, while the US was not studied on this measure.
'In all three countries there is excitement as the child approaches, joy when the child arrives and complete adaptation within two years.
'This is of course an average finding, but it applies to both fathers and to mothers.'
The authors add: 'A sensible conclusion is that having young children brings some satisfaction but on average not a lot (with huge upsides being matched by significant downsides).'
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