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Children really do make parents happier, new study shows

Nichole and Jason Whiting with their kids: Daisy, 6, McAllister, 9 and London, 11.
Nichole and Jason Whiting with their kids: Daisy, 6, McAllister, 9 and London, 11.
, Whiting family photo

It's six in the morning. The neighborhood sleeps as sunlight creeps upon the quiet street, but one couple's day has already begun with the onslaught of dirty diapers and sticky fingers.

In a 2010 issue of New York Magazine, Jennifer Senior's article "Why Parents Hate Parenting" explored findings that show "parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so." At the time, the statistics, though contested and controversial, appeared creditable. Now, however, new studies suggest otherwise.

"Two college professors, Chris M. Herbst and John Ifcher, are challenging the collective, if counterintuitive, wisdom," KJ Dell'Antonia of the New York Times reported Thursday. "Being a parent, they say, really does make people happier than the alternative."

On Friday, Global News reported on three additional studies conducted at the University of British Columbia, Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside. "The collaborative paper, 'In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery,' will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science."

Global Saskatoon noted the study did indicate that younger parents, those 17-25, "did not exhibit the same benefits from parenthood found in the 26-62 age range."

While some were skeptical and others approved, Kasey Edwards of the Herald Sun posed a noteworthy question: "Why (do) we need a bunch of experts to tell us that having children improves happiness? Such studies are the worst example of a culture in which self-gratification is the most important consideration in any course of action."

Whether or not couples parent simply to appease their own gratification, recent studies showing that parenting is congruent with happiness emerge as laudable, if not conclusive. Co-author Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at British Columbia, asserts that "parents are not nearly the 'miserable creatures' we might expect from recent studies and popular representations. If you went to a large dinner party, our findings suggest that the parents in the room would be as happy."