Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

When new parents become unhappy, brothers and sisters become less likely

05.08.2015

Couples who perceive a drop in happiness in the first year after they became parents, have a lower probability of having a second child. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, has shown that the larger the loss in well-being, the smaller the probability of a second baby. The effect is especially strong for mothers and fathers who are well educated and older.

The investigation deals with a taboo subject. It is rarely discussed that parents often experience a considerable loss of happiness after the birth of a first child. The new study shows that for mothers and fathers in Germany the drop in life satisfaction during the year following the first birth is even larger than that caused by unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner.

These findings have now been published by Mikko Myrskylä, demographer and new director at the MPIDR, and Rachel Margolis from the Sociology Department at the University of Western Ontario in the Journal Demography.

“Parent’s experience with and after the first birth help predict how large the family will be eventually,” says Mikko Myrskylä. “Politicians concerned about low birthrates should pay attention to the well-being of new parents around and after the birth of their first child.”

Children don’t only bring happiness

In order to explore how the birth of the first child influenced parental happiness, the researchers made use of mother’s and father’s self-reported life satisfaction in the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Every year 20,000 participants assessed their contentedness with life on a scale from zero to ten (maximum well-being).

After the first child mothers and fathers reported a loss of well-being that averaged to 1.4 units on the happiness scale. They felt this decline during the first year of parenthood compared to the two years before the birth. Only just under 30 percent of the participants did not feel any decline in well-being. And more than one third experienced a decline of two or more units of happiness.

This is notable compared to what international studies find for unemployment or the death of the partner (both with an average loss of one happiness-unit) or for divorce (minus 0.6 units) on the same scale.

Calculations done by Myrskylä and Margolis now show, how strongly experiences made with the first child affect chances for a second. Only 58 out of one hundred couples who reported a drop in well-being of three units or more had a second child within ten years. But among parents who did not feel a reduction in happiness, 66 out of one hundred couples had another baby. Thus, the share of families with at least four members was almost 14 percent larger if happiness did not decline. These results are independent of income, place of birth, or marital status of the couples.

Mothers and fathers over 30 years old and those who have been educated for more than twelve years were especially influenced by their state of well-being when it came to deciding about having more children. Gender, however, was not an indicator. “Both parents have learned what it means to have a child,” says Myrskylä. “Those who are older and better educated may be more able or willing to revise their family plans based on prior experience.”

Sticking with one child

The details of what makes new parents unhappy were not part of the study. “Generally, new parents complain about a lack of sleep, relationship stress and a feeling of loss of freedom and control over their lives,” says MPIDR director Myrskylä. Difficulties when trying to reconcile family life and work also play a role. A long and difficult labor and delivery might also be important.

The immediate loss of well-being during the first year of parenthood has to be put into perspective. Before the baby is born, happiness levels rise noticeably above the previous long-term average because of the joyful anticipation. “On the whole, and in the long run, despite the unhappiness after the first birth of a baby, having up to two children rather increases overall happiness in life,” says Mikko Myrskylä.

These new research results help to explain a long-standing contradiction in fertility: although most German couples still say they would like to have two children, birthrates have fluctuated below 1.5 children per women for the past four decades. While rising childlessness is often discussed as a cause, it remains widely unrecognized that more and more couples in Germany have a first child, but not the second one they had initially wanted.

While the share of one-child families was at 25 percent for mothers born at the end of the 1930s, the percentage rose to 32 for the now 45-year-old mothers of the late 1960 cohorts. For comparison: the share for mothers of the late 1960 cohorts is now at 21 percent in England and Wales.

Data on a taboo subject

Research on parental happiness is rare, as most mothers and fathers wouldn’t admit their true feelings of unhappiness in connection with the birth of their children. This is why Myrskylä and Margolis turned to a question for general happiness with life in the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Formally it is not associated with the children of the participants at all. But the answers can be connected to them by their timing, as the SOEP does not only inquire self-reported happiness on a yearly basis but also records each person’s life history, including important events like childbirths.

About the MPIDR

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR) investigates the structure and dynamics of populations. It focuses on issues of political relevance such as demographic change, aging, fertility, the redistribution of work over the course of life, as well as aspects of evolutionary biology and medicine. The MPIDR is one of the largest demographic research bodies in Europe and one of the worldwide leaders in the field. It is part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.
www.demogr.mpg.de

Contact

Mikko Myrskylä – MPIDR author of the article (speaks English)
PHONE +49 381 2081 – 118
E-MAIL sekmyrskyla@demogr.mpg.de

Silvia Leek – MPIDR Press department
PHONE +49 381 2081 – 143
E-MAIL leek@demogr.mpg.de

This press release and the chart as high resolution and vector image are available for download at: http://www.demogr.mpg.de/go/birth-happiness

Original publication:
Rachel Margolis, Mikko Myrskylä: Parental Well-being Surrounding First Birth as a Determinant of Further Parity Progression, Demography, DOI 10.1007/ s13524-015-0413-2

Silvia Leek | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

Further reports about: Demography Max-Planck-Institut SOEP life satisfaction parental unemployment

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College

nachricht Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
30.11.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>