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Does Having Children Make You Unhappy?


"Depression and emotional distress" are more common in American adults who have children.

Do your kids make you unhappy?

According to some researchers, the answer is "yes." The commonly-held belief that having children is a sure-fire key to emotional fulfillment is being turned on its head, as recent studies show that children do anything but increase levels of personal happiness. Coinciding with this research is the reality that more women than ever exit their childbearing years without having kids. And, the more educated women are, the less likely they are to have children. According to CNN:

Nearly one in five American women now ends her childbearing years without having a child, compared with one in ten in the 1970s, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

Robin Simon, a sociology professor, claims that "depression and emotional distress" are more common in American adults who have children:

"As a group, parents of all types and all socioeconomic levels in the United States report more symptoms of depression and emotional distress than their childless adult counterparts."

CNN highlights another professor -- Harvard's Daniel Gilbert -- who has found similar results. According to Gilbert's analysis, psychologists have noted that parents are more happy eating, enjoying television and exercising than they are "interacting with their kids."  In examining a number of studies, he found "...that children give adults many things, but an "increase in daily happiness is probably not among them."

Anyone who has children knows that they're a joy. That being said, there are certainly challenges to parenting. Mothers (and sometimes fathers) often lose flexibility in terms of jobs and work schedules. And, let's not forget the expense of having a child. Both of these elements can certainly lead to stress.

Another piece of research, though, finds that the more children an individual over the age of 40 has, the happier he or she will be. This essentially points to the fact that kids become less of a stress factor, generally speaking, as they age.

It should be noted that lifestyle likely plays a key role in stress and unhappiness. Each culture embraces various trends, traditions and roles that impact children and adults, alike.  Thus, one would assume that the level of unhappiness varies with time, location and emerging cultural patterns.

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