A University of York economist claims the idea parenting makes us happy is an illusion.
In an article The Psychologist, Dr. Nattavudh Powdthavee, of the University’s Department of Economics and Related Studies and an expert in the economics of happiness, says that having children does not increase happiness. This surprising conclusion in the research of wellbeing may shed light in the dynamics of marital failure.
“Social scientists have found almost zero association between having children and happiness,” Powdthavee says. “In a recent study of British adults for example we found that parents and non-parents reported the same levels of life satisfaction. Other studies from Europe and the USA found that parents report significantly lower levels of satisfaction than people who haven’t had children.”
Dr. Powdthavee suggests that the widespread belief that having children increase happiness can be explained as a “‘focusing illusion.”
“To imagine what it’s like being a mother or a father we’re likely to focus more on the good things about being a parent than the bad things. This is mainly because we believe that the rare but meaningful experiences like a child’s first smile or seeing them get married will give us massive and long-lasting increases in happiness. But in reality, we rarely think about these big experiences on a daily basis, simply because they do not occur to us every day. Instead, parents spend much of their time attending to the very core processes of childcare – problems at school, cooking and laundry – which are much more frequent but a lot less salient events. And it is these small but negative experiences that are more likely to impact on our day-to-day levels of happiness and life satisfaction.”