Postponing childbearing causes happiness, but a third child causes pressure

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New research has indicated that couples who choose to postpone childbearing to later in life experience the most lasting and highest levels of happiness after the birth of their babies.

It was found that parents aged between 35 and 49 indicated the most positive reaction to becoming new parents, compared to those who started their family between the ages of 23 and 34 who experienced a smaller impact, which declined after a year or two. The study indicated that parents aged between 18 and 22 saw a decline in their happiness levels after becoming parents.

According to the authors of the study, London School of Economics’ Mikko Myrskylä and Western University in Canada’s Rachel Margolis, this could be the reason why more people are waiting to start families.

They stipulated that prospective parents may be looking around them and copying the family planning method which seems to offer the most contentment.

The overall pattern among all the groups studied showed an increase in happiness during the year prior to and after the birth of the baby, which was followed by a post-birth dip. The ones who fell into the oldest age category were the only ones who appeared to recover from that dip, which indicates an easier transition into parenthood.

Parents across all the age groups experienced a decline in happiness after the birth of each of their children. The increase they felt in their well-being was the highest after the first child, which was almost double that felt after the second baby. The happiness level was negligible after the birth of the third child.

Dr Myrskylä emphasised that this did not imply they were not loved as much as their older siblings. In fact, it may indicate that the parenthood experience is not as exciting by the time the third baby is born or that a larger family places increased pressure on the resources of the family.

This study was undertaken in association with the German Institute for Economic Research, and followed both German and English parents over the course of one and a half years.

Image Credit: Nina Matthews Photography

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