Do you find yourself smiling at other people’s kids as that walk by in the supermarket? Have you noted how your friends light up when talking about their little ones and wondered you’d glow like that with munchkins of your own? Well, studies out of University of California, Riverside, University British Columbia, and Stanford University suggest that “parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning in life than people without children.” The research will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science in a paper titled “In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery.”

“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.”

Paper co-authors are S. Katherine Nelson, a doctoral candidate at UCR; Kostadin Kushlev, a doctoral candidate at UBC; Tammy English, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford; and Elizabeth W. Dunn, associate professor of psychology at UBC.

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.

Recent popular accounts have painted a portrait of unhappy parents who find little joy in taking care of their children, “but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers note that parents are happier when taking care of their children, that “Fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers,” and that older and married parents are the happiest.

Do you think having children will impact you happiness levels?

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