Parenting linked to happiness and meaning in life

If you went to a large dinner party, the parents in the room would be just as happy or happier than the guests without children.

Parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning in life than people without children, according to researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of British Columbia and Stanford University.

“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.

The findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives, despite the added responsibilities. The study also dovetails with emerging evolutionary perspectives that suggest parenting is a fundamental human need.

The researchers conducted three studies that tested whether parents are happier overall than their childless peers, if parents feel better moment-to-moment than nonparents, and whether parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities.

The consistency of their findings across all three studies “provides strong evidence challenging the widely held perception that children are associated with reduced well-being.

Among the findings:

– 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. This finding requires further study, Dunn noted, adding that “the pleasures of parenthood may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood.”

– Older and married parents tend to be the happiest. “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,” Lyubomirsky said. “This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents.”

Enjoy parenting 🙂

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Dr. Anil Singhal MD (Homeo)