Washington: It`s often said that parenting is the most difficult job. But, new research has found that mothers and fathers experience greater levels of happiness and meaning from life than non-parents.
The research, which comprised several different studies, suggested "parents are not nearly the `miserable creatures` we might expect from recent studies and popular representations", said study researcher Elizabeth Dunn from the University of British Columbia in Canada.
"If you went to a big dinner party, our findings suggest that the parents in the room would be as happy or happier than those guests without children. Even so, we are not saying parents are walking around in this amazing state of bliss either," Dunn told LiveScience.
Specifically, the research found that parents are happier when they are caring for children than during other daily activities; across the studies that formed this research, the happiness bump was seen most consistently in fathers and in parents who are older and married.
"We find that if you are older and married (presumably having more social and financial support), then you`re likely to be happier if you have children than your childless peers," co-researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, of University of California, Riverside, said. "This is not true, however, for single parents or very young parents."
The research, to be published in a forthcoming issue of journal Psychological Science, adds to a mix of data on the lives of parents and their kids.
In the current research, the researchers conducted three studies to test whether parents are happier overall than their childless peers, if parents feel better moment-to-moment than non-parents, and whether parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities.
In one study, the researchers used data from the World Values Survey, encompassing more than 6,900 US adults, about half being female. They found that fathers in particular expressed greater levels of happiness, positive emotion and meaning in life than their childless peers.
"Interestingly, the greater levels of parental happiness emerged more consistently in fathers than mothers," Dunn said.
"While more research is needed on this topic, it suggests that the pleasures of parenthood may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood."
The researchers also found that the stresses associated with single parenthood did not wipe out the greater feelings of meaning and reward associated with having children.
"We are not saying that parenting makes people happy, but that parenthood is associated with happiness and meaning," Lyubomirsky said.
"Contrary to repeated scholarly and media pronouncements, people may find solace that parenthood and child care may actually be linked to feelings of happiness and meaning in life," Lyubomirsky added.