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London - With the never-ending merry-go-round of expenses, tears, bad behaviour and boundary pushing, bringing up children can sometimes seem to be the worst kind of self-inflicted ordeal.
But a new study says parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning in life than people without children.
The findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives, despite the added responsibilities.
The study, which contradicts the prevailing view that parents are less happy overall, also dovetails with emerging evolutionary perspectives that suggest parenting is a fundamental human need.
Researchers from the University of California, the University of British Columbia and Stanford University conducted a series of studies in the US and Canada.
They tested whether parents are happier overall than their childless peers, if parents feel better moment-to-moment than non-parents, and whether parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities.
They found that parents are happier when taking care of their children than while doing other daily activities.
Fathers, in particular, expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers.
And older and married parents tend to be the happiest of all.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at UC Riverside and a leading scholar in positive psychology, said: “We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning.”
The consistency of the findings across all three studies provides strong evidence challenging the widely held perception that parents are miserable creatures.
However, their findings came with important caveats.
Lyubomirsky explained: “Our findings suggest that if you are older (and presumably more mature) and if you are married (and presumably have more social and financial support), then you’re likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers.
“This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents.” – Daily Mail