Having kids make us happier – but only once they have moved out, apparently
Trying to decide if having kids is for you?
Well, then you might be interested to know that several studies have found that becoming a parent will, to most people, make you happier than staying childless.
However, the effects aren't immediate, apparently.
In fact, a new study has revealed that yes, having children will indeed make you happier. But only later in life – when the kids have actually moved out and flown the nest.
Sounds like a long-term investment? It seems it is.
A team of researchers at Heidelberg University in Germany found that parents tend to be happier than non-parents in old age, but this only holds if their kids have moved out. According to CNN, previous research has suggested that parenthood, social networks and marital status affect the well-being and mental health of older people, and this latest study looks at the effects of family status.
To conduct their research, the German scientists asked 55,000 people age 50 and over from 16 European countries about their mental well-being, and results suggest "the positive aspects of parenthood dominate when getting older."
One of the biggest factors, which makes sense, of course, is that children become a form of social support, and the researchers point out that social support networks are associated with greater happiness and less loneliness and can act as a buffer against stressful events.
"The results suggest that the finding of a negative link between children and well-being and mental health may not generalise to older people whose children have often left home already," the study says. "As stress associated with balancing the competing demands of childcare, work and personal life decreases, once people get older and their children leave (home), the importance of children as caregivers and social contacts might prevail."
Interestingly, this happiness effect was not as obvious for children who still lived at home as adults.
But Christoph Becker, who formed part of the research team, was keen to point to CNN that while having a social network does indeed correspond to greater life satisfaction, that doesn't mean this has to come from children.
"Older people without children could get similar benefits from other close social connections with whom they can share issues and problems," Becker explains. "Literature has suggested that there might be U-shaped connection between age and happiness: people become less happy in middle age, but more happy in older age. We want to test if we find a similar relationship in our data, depending again on parenthood and social networks."