Have children: synonymous with happiness?
Having children can be one of the happiest experiences in the life of a person, but not necessarily in 100% of cases. Although in today's society there is a constant pressure so that motherhood is seen as a blessing, something wonderful, and always something positive, the truth is that there are media voices that begin to talk about the less idyllic aspects of motherhood, and we They explain that everything that glitters is not gold.
Recently the journalist Samanta Villar has raised controversy due to some statements for the ABC newspaper where she expressed that after her recent motherhood she is not happier than before and that having children "is losing quality of life". The attacks and criticism from social networks for these statements are a clear example of the idealization of motherhood.
But what does science say about the relationship between psychological well-being and motherhood?
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How do children influence their relationship?
One of the areas where the birth of a new family member can most influence is marital satisfaction . The organization of the couple's system must be reviewed and adjusted, and can even be considered as a crisis. This is because that baby needs all the attention possible, and the relationship goes to the background.
When it is time to resume the role of the romantic relationship, they appear problems like loss of intimacy of the couple , which can affect communication and sexual relations.
In a meta-analysis conducted by Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell and Craig A. Foster and published in 2003 in the journal "Journal of Marriage and Family" it is clear that the transition to motherhood or fatherhood can:
1. Increase stress
The increase in the number of tasks that the couple has to carry out after the baby is born increases their stress level and generates tension in the couple relationship . The latter is due to the reduced availability of time for communication.
2. Interfere in the relationship
The presence of the new family member can negatively affect the companionship of the couple and their sexual relations .
3. Overload roles
By increasing the tasks to be performed, parents are forced to execute new roles to the point of being overwhelmed by them.
4. Create negative evaluations about marriage
This happens especially in women who have less traditional values .
- Related article: "The 7 keys to have a healthy relationship"
What do the studies say?
The authors argue that there are also cases in which the birth of a baby can produce positive effects in marital satisfaction, so they indicate that some variables can mediate the relationship.
The meta-analysis consisted of 97 articles, which correspond to a total sample of 47,692 participants. The results showed that:
1. Decrease satisfaction with the relationship
People with children had lower couple satisfaction in 90 of the 97 articles analyzed. 55% of people without children indicate that they are satisfied with their relationship, compared to 45% of people with children.
2. The more children the less satisfaction
Couples with a greater number of children report a worse marital satisfaction than couples with fewer children .
3. It affects more to the satisfaction of women
In women, with maternity decreases satisfaction to a greater degree in the couple compared to men who enter fatherhood.
4. The effect increases with the socioeconomic level
The people of high socioeconomic level show lower satisfaction of a couple than those that are located in lower levels.
Consequences for personal happiness
Regarding the happiness of the person when a baby is born, a recent article by the authors Jennifer Glass, Robin W. Simon, and Matthew A. Andersson published in the "American Journal of Sociology" where 22 European countries are analyzed and the US shows that Not all countries report less happiness when people are fathers or mothers.
The USA and Ireland are the countries where parents are less happy, while in countries such as Finland, Norway, France and Spain people who have children are happier than people without children.
The authors of this article argue that the lack of policies in favor of fathers and mothers that help to reconcile family and work life creates greater anxiety and stress for parents, thus diminishing their happiness.The results may seem surprising if we compare the ease of conciliation between the Nordic countries and Spain.
- Related article: "The 10 keys to be happy, according to science"
Motherhood is idealized
As we have seen, having children can have negative effects on the quality of life of people. The loss of satisfaction in the couple, the effect on the sexual life of people, stress and anxiety are some of the effects that the arrival of a new member of the family can cause in people.
So the idealization of motherhood, silencing all these negative effects, does a disservice to people who suffer emotional distress due to these important changes that happen with the birth of a baby. It can also cause a false sense that services and support for family conciliation they are sufficient and thus limit the review of government policies in this regard.
- Related article: "Antinatalism: against the birth of more human beings"
- Glass, J., Simon, R. W., & Andersson, M.A. (2016). Parenthood and Happiness: Effects of Work-Family Reconciliation Policies in 22 OECD Countries. American Journal of Sociology, 122(3), 886–929.
- Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K. & Foster, C. A. (2003). Parenthood and Marital Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65: 574–583.