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New Study Finds That Having Your First Child Makes You Miserable

August 13, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Parenting the first baby is worse than getting divorced, being fired from your job, or losing your spouse.

For most of recent history, babies have had a pretty good run, PR-wise. Not only have they been successfully branded as “bundles of joy,” they’ve also been widely recognized as the reason, collectively at least, that we're here (what with reproduction being so crucial to existence).

But in recent decades, scientific studies of parental happiness — or the lack thereof — tell a very different story. And one recent survey goes even further, finding that the “drop in life satisfaction during the year following the first birth [of a child] is even larger than that caused by unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner.”

A collaborative effort by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and the University of Western Ontario, the study collected surveys from 2,016 German couples “from three years before a first birth through at least two years after the first birth.” As the Washington Post notes, while anticipatory happiness levels rose in the year preceding birth of a first child, in both the first and second years following, 70 percent of new parents reported a drop in their happiness levels. And these drops, measured on a happiness scale from 1-10, were pretty huge:

Of those new mothers and fathers whose happiness went down, 37 percent (742) reported a one-unit drop, 19 percent (383) a two-unit drop and 17 percent (341) a three-unit drop. On average, new parenthood led to a 1.4 unit drop in happiness. That's considered very severe.

The article goes on to note that such a big drop in happiness is greater than that following divorce (0.6 “happiness unit” drop), unemployment (1 unit drop) or the death of a spouse or partner (also a 1 unit drop). In other words, these parents — who no doubt love their firstborns more than life itself — also felt that parenthood is kind of the pits.

The study offers insight into why, among Germans, there’s such rampant incongruity between most couples’ purported desire for two children, …read more


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