In defense of parenthood: children are associated with more joy than misery

Psychol Sci. 2013 Jan 1;24(1):3-10. doi: 10.1177/0956797612447798. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


Recent scholarly and media accounts paint a portrait of unhappy parents who find remarkably little joy in taking care of their children, but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive. In the three studies reported here, we used a strategy of converging evidence to test whether parents evaluate their lives more positively than do nonparents (Study 1), feel relatively better than do nonparents on a day-to-day basis (Study 2), and derive more positive feelings from caring for their children than from other daily activities (Study 3). The results indicate that, contrary to previous reports, parents (and especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than do nonparents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Reproductive Behavior / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Single Parent / psychology
  • Young Adult