Are childless couples happier?

Parents Day Out, Disneyland, Paris - France
Parents and kids waiting in line to enter Disneyland. (Humayunn Niaz Ahmed Peerzaada / Flickr)

“For centuries, having children has been held up by many as the ultimate source of fulfilment and meaning in life. However, according to one of the biggest studies ever conducted into Britain’s relationships, childless couples have happier marriages,” writes John Bingham in the Telegraph.

The project has found that people without children are more satisfied with their relationships and more likely to feel valued by their partner than couples with children.

The study, by the Open University, involved interviews and surveys with more than 5,000 people of all ages, statuses and sexual orientations.

When people were asked to rate the quality of their relationship those without children emerged as happier overall.

Today’s Question: Are childless couples happier?

(h/t MPR News editor Jennifer Erlich)

  • kevins

    Wouldn’t know…we have four children and are pretty happy.

  • Ross

    The husband and wife in this marriage agree we are happy without children

  • Ralphy

    At a point in time any couple could be happier if their situation were different. Or not. Does the survey take into account the life cycle of a relationship?
    Children are valued and adored by some adults, and not so much by others. Hopefully the desire fore children is a compatibility trait that the couple share.

  • Sue de Nim

    Or is it that couples without children can separate or get divorced with many fewer complications and repercussions, so it’s only the happy childless couples that stay together?

    Being interested in the long term, I’d be curious about a study comparing the happiness of childless couples with couples who have grandchildren.

  • TheMagicRat

    Not sure about happiness, but I know my wife and I have more money, time, and energy. Actually, I guess that does sound like happiness.

  • Jim G

    How much happiness can $241,080 ( or #301,970 taking inflation into account) buy? This is the USDA estimate of what it will cost to raise a child born in 2012 until the age of 18.

    We’re still paying off college loans, however we are happier now that the children are adults and on their own. I’m looking forward to grandchildren.

  • jon

    The very question strikes me as anti-science.

    A pervasive attitude in this country, and not one I expected from public radio.

    If a study finds something, we shouldn’t ask “Do you think that is right?”
    We should ask “Do you see a flaw in their methodology?” or “Do you see any reason why these findings might be the way they are?” (as another commenter suggested maybe unhappy childless couples don’t stay together.) or even “How do these findings affect you?”

    If NASA came out with a press release that stated “Curiosity finds water on mars!” would we ask the question “Do you think that there is water on mars?”

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t challenge every study that comes out, but asking the opinions of the general populace on “do you agree with this finding?” doesn’t advance anything, and only allows the general populate the opportunity to dismiss scientific findings on a whim, because clearly if a study found something and people are still asking them “do you think that is right?” then clearly their opinion must hold some weight over actual research (it doesn’t, your opinion is meaningless in the face of factual evidence, sorry if that offends those of you who have opinions that fly counter to actual factual evidence, though I’m sure without “pick and choose what facts are real” everyone believes that their opinions are supported by facts.)

    To answer the question, I am happy with my relationship with my wife, we have no kids, this one data point does not give any indication as to the feelings of the wider populace, or even a comparison point against another couple similar to us that does have kids.

  • jaime

    I think people are happiest when they do what they truly want to do and don’t feel pressured one way or the other. I knew from fairly early on in my life that I wasn’t really interested in having kids. I like children, but never felt compelled to have any of my own. I was very upfront about this when I met my future spouse and he was ok with that decision. It was very frustrating to me when, at my wedding reception (many moons ago), one of the first things people asked was “when are you going to have kids?” I know my parents are not particularly overjoyed with our decision, but they are accepting and have stopped asking about it (it took a while for them to accept even when I was very clear about it).

    I have a friend who wanted kids more than anything and, after many medical interventions, is now a very happy and fulfilled person with two beautiful toddlers (albeit very tired and broke). 🙂

  • PaulJ

    People w/kids often seem to have the same attitude as people with a lot of money. Happy to have the money, but grumpy from working so hard to get it.

  • lindblomeagles

    I’ve seen lots of different relationships work and fail for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure we’re ever going to really know what makes a relationship stand the test of time because each person is different, and when you are different you have to find a way to compromise in order to move forward in life. Too often, especially from our politicians, we adults seek that ONE WAY, what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Life just doesn’t work that way. Somewhere along the way we are going to be disappointed. How we HANDLE that disappointment causes us to be happy or unhappy.

  • John Peschken

    Much of the happiness comes after the children are grown. Seeing they have grown into adults you like and respect really feels good. The early years are very often hard. In the long run, it’s a lifetime accomplishment you can be proud of.

  • Rich in Duluth

    If the study was done appropriately, then I have to agree with it. However, I think that happiness is very difficult to measure. It varies throughout life or even throughout the day, so I’m not sure the study is significant.

    Childless couples certainly have more opportunity to do as they please, which brings a measure of happiness. They don’t spend sleepless nights walking back and forth with a crying baby on their shoulder, worrying about a sick kid, daily discipline, a kid out past curfew, bad grades, parties at your house when you’re gone, “wrong” choices in friends.…the list is long.

    But they also don’t experience the joy of first steps, first words, successful potty
    training, pushing your child on the tire swing, good grades, school programs, teaching them about the world, watching them learn on their own about the world, become adults, seeing them become wise, or the joy of getting advice from them…the list is long.

    We brought two children into the world and, hopefully, aided them in becoming the wonderful adults they are, now. That is very satisfying.

  • James

    It’s all fun with statistics.
    There are 4 key population segments. (1) With kids/still actively parenting. (2) With kids/post parenting. (3) Without kids — young. (4) Without kids — old.
    My guess is that Segment 2 is happier than Segment 4 (by a wide margin) and that Segment 3 is happier than Segment 1 (by a small margin.)
    If Segments 1 and 3 are over-represented, childless adults are happier on average.
    If Segments 1 through 4 are equally represented, adults with kids are happier on average.
    So who really knows.

  • Ringo

    Parenting is like having a heroin addition – the peaks are incredible and the valleys so low. And expensive. But it does make for an adventure if you can allow it.