Last week, we learned some depressing news about depressed stay-at-home moms: they're way more likely to spend time feeling sad and angry than employed moms, who are about as emotionally content as working women who don't have children.
Now, a group of psychologists claims there is a psychological benefit of parenting: "parents are happier than non-parents," according to a press release. But the study's title and subtitle are not as cheery: "In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery." Um, yay?
According to the study, women with children aren't happier than women who don't have kids (and, as we said last week, usually they're more depressed). Young parents (under the age of 26) are way less happy than mid-20-somethings without children, and single parents aren't having a blast, either. "Married parents did not differ in satisfaction or happiness from married people without children," the study concluded. So, uh, who is experiencing all the happiness and joy, here?
It turns out that "parenthood is associated with greater satisfaction and happiness only among fathers," and married dads at that, which doesn't surprise anyone, least of all the study's authors, who said the discrepancy "is not unexpected, as the pleasures associated with parenting may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood." Ahh, perhaps.
In that case, how can the researchers claim that children are associated with more joy than misery? Probably because all parents said they felt "a stronger sense of meaning in life" than did people without kids. Of course, as the researchers noted, there's a difference between "the search for meaning" and "the presence of meaning" — and the study didn't touch upon that weighty subject in the slightest.
"It's unclear whether having children gives our lives meaning, or whether kids just satisfy a preset societal idea about how we ought to be extracting meaning from our lives." writes GOOD's Amanda Hess, adding that "it should give us pause that women report locating meaning in their lives through something that does not actually make them happy. 'What is the meaning of life?' and 'what is the meaning of my life?' are two questions that should not be so easily confused."
The study's authors said they hoped "people may find solace" from their research, which makes it seem like they, too, are not immune from the idea that having children inherently gives life a purpose, regardless of data that proves otherwise.
Image via Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock.