Ahh, the joy of having a baby – the outfits, the play dates, the chance to help shape someone, an excuse to spend hours playing with legos, race cars, dinosaurs, and doll houses, it’s a fun, rewarding experience, right? Well…not exactly.
A new study has found that first time parents experience a drop in happiness after the child is born. In fact, German researchers have found that having a baby for the first time impacts people more negatively than unemployment, divorce, and even having a spouse die before their time.
A team of researchers led by Mikko Myrskylä (director at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany) and Rachel Margolis (sociology researcher from the University of Western Ontario) started monitoring 2.016 Germans before they ever had a child and followed them throughout the years, into parenthood.
The subjects had to answer the question “How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?” several times by the end of the study. They were asked to use a number anywhere from 0 (no satisfaction at all) to 10 (complete satisfaction).
What they found was that people generally experienced a lot more happiness two (2) years before having a baby. The working theory is that their happiness spiked due to getting pregnant or anticipating the experience of being a parent. But one single year after becoming a parent their happiness levels dropped dramatically.
The research duo wrote in their study that “Although this measure does not capture respondents’ overall experience of having a child, it is preferable to direct questions about childbearing because it is considered taboo for new parents to say negative things about a new child”.
Only somewhere around 30 percent (30%) of the couples managed to hold on to the happiness they had before the birth of their child. On average, the happiness of the rest of the subjects dropped by almost one and a half units (1.4 units). Although it may not sound like a significant drop, Myrskylä and Margolis informed that it’s considered a severe one.
For comparison, people who’ve had a partner die before their time only reported a drop of one (1) unit, those who went through unemployment also reported a drop of one (1) unit, and those who got divorced reported a drop of 0.6 units.
More precisely, 37 percent (37%) of the subjects said that their happiness dropped by one (1) unit, 19 percent (19%) of the subjects said that their happiness dropped by two (2) units, and 17 percent (17%) of the subjects said that their happiness dropped by an even more alarming three (3) units.
Another finding is that happiness and procreation are closely linked together – the bigger the drop in happiness, the less likely people were to have another baby. What’s more, the odds of having a second child dropped even lower if the parent had an age of 30 or older, and if they had a college degree (higher education).
The gender of the subjects did not make a difference, both men and women reported having the same experiences.
The goal of the study was to look at a contradiction people in developed countries seem to be facing – many of them say that they want to have two (2) children, yet the average in Germany is 1.5 children for every person. And it has stayed that way for the past 40 years.
The findings were published earlier this month, in the medical journal Demography.
Image Source: slate.com