children = unhappiness? doh!

This is just the kind of article you want to read when you're five months pregnant.

The gist: "New research suggests that having children makes us unhappy - it's just that none of us feels able to admit it".


In his new book The Happiness Equation, behavioural economist Dr Nick Powdthavee finds that although most parents would claim that children enhance their lives, in actual fact, they don't.

He believes this is because "there is a discrepancy between what we think makes us happy and what happiness data shows actually makes us happy. When you measure how happy parents are on a happiness index, they report either an insignificant difference in happiness or lower levels of happiness compared with non-parents."

A big part of the problem is the cult of parental perfection. "In the past 20 years or so, parenting has taken on this crazy emotional investment," says Dr Simon, "popularly referred to as helicopter parenting, in which children are at the centre of their parents' lives. Our parents wouldn't have dreamed of spending so much time with their kids."

The best comment in the entire article - because it makes me sigh with relief - comes from economist Bryan Caplan, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He's an economist, so I don't really get why he's being quoted in a story about children and happiness, but his advice is spot on:

"If you enjoy reading with your children, wonderful. But if you skip the nightly book, you're not stunting their intelligence, ruining their chances for college or dooming them to a dead-end job. Watching television, playing sports, eating vegetables, living in the right neighbourhood: your choices have little effect on your kids' development, so it's OK to relax."


Verity said...

ha ha too late now lovely! :) PS - economists do all kinds of cool research. In another life (one where I could remember multiplication tables and add numbers bigger than two digits)I'd be an economist. You need to read Reakonomics and Super Freakonomics - best books ever!! They talk about how street walkers are similar to department store santas and why you shouldn't give monkeys money. You would love it :)