Is Having 3 Babies A Recipe For Unhappiness?

Of course, having children is a source of joy, but like most things, it seems that might be true only in moderation. A recent study by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Western University in Canada has shown that following the birth of a first and second child, the parents' happiness increases, but after the birth of a third, it does not. In fact, no other child after the first and second will effect the parents' happiness in quite the same way. Sucks to be you, subsequent children. The study says that in the year before and the year after the birth of child one, the parents are extra happy, and then return to "pre-child level" happiness once the year is up. When child number two comes along, they're happier than usual in the year before and after the kid is born, but only half as happy as they were for child one. Do you follow? So by the time child three comes along, parents have apparently used up all their happiness.

Professor of demography at LSE and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, Mikko Myrskylä, said:

"Our results show a temporary and transitory gain in parents' happiness around the birth of first and second children. The fact that parental happiness increases before these children are born suggests that we are capturing broader issues relating to childbearing such as couples forming partnerships and making plans for the future. The arrival of a third child is not associated with an increase in the parents' happiness, but this is not to suggest they are any less loved than their older siblings. Instead, this may reflect that the experience of parenthood is less novel and exciting by the time the third child is born or that a larger family puts extra pressure on the parents' resources."

The study also revealed inconsistent levels of happiness between men and women (so obviously there are many variables at play here.) Women were happiest while expecting and directly after childbirth, experiencing steeper drops in happiness in the year after the birth than men (although it would have been nice to have more due diligence paid to instances of post-partum depression.) Older parents (between the ages of 35 and 49) and "more educated" parents are also more likely to experience higher levels of happiness after the birth of a first child. Predictably enough, teen parents only ever experience a decline in happiness.

The study is interesting enough, but it seems obvious that the excitement over new child decreases as the novelty of being a parent wears off and as more children begin to put a serious strain on household resources. Obviously, richer, smarter, older, more "established in life" parents are more likely to be happier surrounding the birth of their child, while terrified teens are likely to be, ya know, terrified. Either way, I was a first child, so I'm proud to be able to say I bought my parents the maximum amount of child happiness a child can bring ones parents.

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