According to a new study authored by Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskyla, happiness of new parents decreased drastically after their newborn comes in the world.
The study was conducted on a sample of 2,016 German citizens. At the onset of the study, all participants were childless. The study followed the participants until two years had passed after the birth of the first child in some cases.
Initially, all participants participated in a survey designed to measure their level of happiness. One question directly asked ‘How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?’. Respondents had to rate their level of satisfaction from 0 to 10, representing completely dissatisfied, respectively completely satisfied.
The researchers noted:
“Although this measure does not capture respondents’ overall experience of having a child, it is preferable to direct questions about childbearing because it is considered taboo for new parents to say negative things about a new child.”
This study explained a longstanding contradiction regarding fertility and birthrate, not only in Germany, but across developed countries. In Germany, couples want to have, on average, two children.
Nonetheless, for the past 40 years, the birth rate remained at the same level – 1.5 children per woman. It seems this low birth rate, despite declarations, may be explained by the decreasing level of satisfaction parents feel after having their first child.
The study conducted by Rachel Margolis of the University of Western Ontario and Mikko Myrskyla, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, indicated that prior to the birth of the first child, most couples report a higher level of happiness than before, explained partly by the anticipation of their newborn and the pregnancy.
Once the child is born, only 30 percent of the participants declared that they maintained their level of satisfaction and happiness. In some cases, it even increased.
But another 37 percent of the new parents reported a unit drop following the birth of their first child. 19 percent reported a two-unit drop, while another 17 percent reported a three-unit decrease.
On average, the happiness of new parents dropped by 1.4 units. Previous studies showed that once people get a divorce, their happiness drops by 0.6 units. Unemployment is equated with a one-unit drop, while the death of a partner is also equated with a one-unit drop. In perspective, a 1.4 unit drop in happiness after the first child is born is a severe social occurrence.
The findings of this study pinpoint the need for more support towards new parents, if national birth rates are to grow.
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