The ‘Miseries’ of Parenthood

The ‘Miseries’ of ParenthoodThe ‘Miseries’ of Parenthood

Having a child is often referred to as the happiest moment in one’s life. However, new research finds many parents become unhappy following the birth of their first child, which may deter them from having any more.

Rachel Margolis, of the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and Mikko Myrskyla, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, published their findings in the journal Demography.

The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding as to why some parents stop at having one child, reports

According to the most recent data from the US Census Bureau, the number of one-child families in the US has increased significantly in recent years. Today, more than 15 million American families only have one child.

Researchers note that there are a number of important social and demographic factors that may play a role in parents’ decision to have more than one child. Past studies have shown that women are increasingly more career-driven, for example, meaning many are more focused on work than having children.

But Margolis and Myrskyla say no quantitative studies have investigated how the experience of having a first child impacts the desire to have more.

“The experience of the transition to parenthood will inform new parents’ decisions about whether to have another child,” they say. “If having a first child is an overall positive experience, or more positive than anticipated, then people should be more likely to have another. However, if the transition to parenthood is very difficult or more difficult than expected, then people may choose to remain at parity one.”

The team assessed 1984-2010 data of 2,301 German parents who were part of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study.

Each year of the study, both mothers and fathers were required to complete a questionnaire in which they rated their happiness on a scale of 0-10, with 10 representing maximum wellbeing. In addition, parents were asked about other life factors, including childbirth, relationships and employment.

Researchers used the information to assess participants’ happiness 2 years prior to the birth of their first child and their happiness during transition to parenthood - up to 1 year after birth.

They found that during the transition to parenthood, parents reported an average 1.4-point drop on the happiness scale, compared with 2 years before their first child was born.

Overall, more than 70% of parents experienced a decline in wellbeing after the birth of their first child, with over a third experiencing a minimum 2-point drop on the happiness scale.

In addition, researchers found that parents who experienced a decline in wellbeing after their first child were less likely to have more children; 58% of parents who became unhappier went on to have a second child within 10 years, compared with 66% of parents whose happiness did not decline.