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 Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>