Does Parenting Make You a Happier Person?

Health & Wellness on 05.21.12
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As I've written before elsewhere, happiness is a notoriously tricky concept to pin down - yet that doesn't mean it isn't real, or we shouldn't pay close attention to it. After all, if you were to ask most of us what we want out of life for ourselves - or for our children - happiness would rank pretty highly.

From working moms being happier than their stay-at-home counterparts, through reasons to put yourself first as a parent, we've discussed plenty of strategies here on Parentables for parents to be happier. But what about a slightly more fundamental question: does parenting itself make you more, or less, happy than your childless contemporaries?

Some time back, the New York Times reported on research that suggested that parents were statistically less happy than non-parents. I have even spoken with one couple who claimed studies like this played an influence in their decision on whether or not to have kids.

But now a different study is reporting significantly different results. In fact, ScienceDaily reports that researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of British Columbia and Stanford University have publshed results showing people with children are happier than those without:

"We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning," explained Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at UC Riverside and a leading scholar in positive psychology. "Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life."

Interestingly, it seems that men were particularly susceptible to the positive emotional effects of parenthood.

Given that happiness is often associated with challenges, accomplishments and feeling engaged in your life - it hardly comes as a surprise that parents report increased happiness. Whether they do so when their child is screaming at 3 in the morning, well that's another matter.

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