New study finds money can't buy parental happiness-(San Diego State U.)
U-WIRE - August 13, 2003

(U-WIRE) SAN DIEGO -- More money doesn't mean more happiness, according to a study released this month.

A marriage satisfaction study found that couples with higher incomes and children were less happy than those couples from lower socioeconomic groups with children.

The meta-analysis -- an analysis of many studies and surveys -- appeared in an article in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family. The authors of the study include San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell and United States Air Force Academy professor Craig Foster.

"Many people think that becoming a parent will bring you closer as a couple, and we wondered if that was true," Twenge said. "It's not."

The group started with the full text of around 300 articles and 97 of those fulfilled the criteria set by the authors and were subsequently used for the analysis. The criteria for the review included studies with samples including parents, non-parents and articles reporting statistics sufficient for calculations used by the researchers. Some of the studies were also longitudinal, meaning that they looked at couples and families over long periods of time.

"Basically, you find every study that has been done on a topic and average the results," Campbell said. "This allows you to not only have a great deal of confidence in your estimate of the size of the effect, but also to look at relationships that you couldn't find in a typical study."

According to Twenge, the analysis allowed them to see which groups showed the biggest decreases in marital happiness after parenthood. They were also able to look at change over time, which most individual studies can't examine.

"We also found that the decrease in marital happiness with parenthood was larger for couples who became parents more recently," Twenge said. "Marital happiness did not decrease as much for couples who became parents in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, it was just expected that you would have children."

Now, having children is seen as a choice, not a given, Twenge said. She said people take the difficulties more personally and they don't realize that all parents experience those same difficulties.

According to the study, couples with infants and couples who had more children experienced more parental dissatisfaction than those couples with older children or less children. This finding is particularly consistent with mothers because they are usually the primary caregivers to infants. They also experience the greatest reorganization, or change, of their social role to a more traditional one.

According to the article, "women also may experience some psychological stress as they see themselves primarily in a caregiving role, especially if they are accustomed to a professional role."

Adjusting from a career to motherhood is much more radical now than it was in decades past because women have professional careers, as opposed to less prestigious jobs or not being employed at all, the article stated.

"If you make a good income and don't have children, you probably have a professional career where you are in control and make your own decisions," Twenge said. "After a baby is born, all of this changes. You're not in control anymore -- the baby is."

However, the authors of the study aren't discouraging people from starting families.

"Be prepared for having children and realize it's going to change your relationship," Twenge said.

(C) 2002 The Daily Aztec via U-WIRE

This news story is not produced by the American Psychological Association and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the association.

PsycPORT® is a product of the American Psychological Association created to provide quick access to mass-media information related to psychology.
®2001 American Psychological Association
Last updated: 08/15/2003 - 05:44 PM