People who decide not to have children are just as happy as those who are parents, study finds 1 year ago

People who decide not to have children are just as happy as those who are parents, study finds

Living by your own rules.

I knew from I was really young, I think, that I someday wanted to be a mum. I just had this feeling like this was what I wanted my life to be, centred around children and home and family, and this never really changed.

Not that I rushed into parenthood, being 28 when my little girl was born, and before that, doing what every other young person do – study, backpack, fall in and out of love, have fun – but someday, I still knew I wanted my life to include children.

And now it does – and it feels one million percent right – to me.

However, it is easy to think that just because most people end up having children, that this is the right choice for everyone, or that it is everyone's dream to once day be a parent.

This, of course, is not the case. And, according to a new study, adults without kids are just as happy as those who do.

To conduct their research, psychologists at Michigan State University in the US asked nearly 1,000 adults about whether or not they have children and their levels of life satisfaction.

And what they found, was that the presence of children made little to no differences in life satisfaction. Interestingly, the researchers also found limited differences in personality traits between parents and child-free individuals.

Choice, it seems, is a big factor, as more than a quarter of the survey respondents said they'd chosen not to had children – a number that was much higher than the study authors had expected, they revealed.

Jennifer Watling Neal and Zachary Neal are both associate professors in MSU's department of psychology, and were the authors behind the study. They believe their research is unique because it separated 'non-parents' (people who aren't parents) into three categories – 'child-free', 'childless' and 'not-yet-parents'.

"Most studies haven't asked the questions necessary to distinguish "child-free" individuals – those who choose not to have children – from other types of non-parents," said Watling Neal about their research.

"Non-parents can also include the "not-yet-parents" who are planning to have kids, and "childless" people who couldn't have kids due to infertility or circumstance. Previous studies simply lumped all non-parents into a single category to compare them to parents."

The study used a set of three questions to determine if people had children, wanted to have children or didn’t want to have children.

"After controlling for demographic characteristics, we found no differences in life satisfaction and limited differences in personality traits between child-free individuals and parents not-yet-parents, or childless individuals," said Neal.

"We also found that child-free individuals were more liberal than parents, and that people who aren't child-free felt substantially less warm toward child-free individuals."