Parents Experience Surge Of Happiness After First And Second Child, But Not Third


Most parents experience a surge of happiness after their first and second child, but the arrival of their third is a little different, according to researchers at the London School of Economics.

Researchers used longitudinal survey data from Britain and Germany and found that parents, particularly mothers, were extremely happy following the birth of their first and second child. Though parents were only half as happy upon the arrival of their second child as they were for their first, they were still happier than usual. However, after couples had a third child, they rarely received the same surge of happiness.

“The arrival of a third child is not associated with an increase in the parents’ happiness,” Mikko Myrskyla, an LSE demography professor and director of Germany’s Max Planck Insitute for Demographic Research, said. “But, this is not to suggest they are any less loved than their older siblings.”

Myrskyla noted that by the time a third child arrives, the novelty of parenthood may simply have worn off or that a larger family puts extra pressure on parents. Myrskyla also suggested that the likelihood of an unplanned pregnancy increases with the number of children a woman has, which could be stressful.

The level of happiness a parent experienced was dependent upon their age and education level. Older or more educated parents derived more happiness for longer periods of time from the pregnancy period to the birth of a child. Specifically, mothers between the ages of 24 and 34 experiences a smaller boost of happiness than older mothers, and teenage mothers experienced no happiness above their baseline at all. However, every parent reverted back to his or her “pre-child” levels of happiness at some point.

“The fact that among older and better-educated parents, well-being increases with childbearing, but the young and less-educated parents have flat or even downward happiness trajectories, may explain why postponing fertility has become so common,” Rachel Margolis, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said.

The research was published in an issue of the journal Demography.

Source: The Washington Post


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