Despite considered the happiest period of one’s life, many parents become unhappy after the birth of their first child, new research finds
Rachel Margolis, of the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and Mikko Myrskylä, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany tried to better understand why some parents don’t want a second child, as more and more families stop at having only one. Parenthood struggles, social and demographic factors may affect parents’ decisions regarding further pregnancies. The decision of not having another child seems to affect especially educated families.
As transition to parenthood can be hard to manage, a decreased level of happiness was observed in people who are parenting for the first time. Pregnancy, child birth, stress and new daily responsibilities seem to affect couples’ decision regarding further children.
Researchers observed well-being data from 200 first-time parents. 58% of the participants decided to have a second child over an average of nine years after the first one. The study found that “the larger the loss in well-being, the smaller the probability of a second baby.” The experience was considered more stressful than unemployment, divorce or death of a partner. The happiness scale dropped 2 points for almost 70% of these people.
“The experience of the transition to parenthood will inform new parents’ decisions about whether to have another child,” Margolis and Myrskylä explain. “If having a first child is an overall positive experience, or more positive than anticipated, then people should be more likely to have another. However, if the transition to parenthood is very difficult or more difficult than expected, then people may choose to remain at parity one.”
Study findings were the same even after considering secondary important factors, such as salary, marital status, professional environment, overall challenges and place of birth. The new study was a quantitative one, so researchers agreed that, in order to determine the whole picture of why and what makes parents decide to stop after the birth of the first child and which are the exact mechanisms that affect their opinion of not having future children, a qualitative study is also required.
“We now know that the drop in happiness is important, if not imperative, for determining whether couples go on to have another child. The happiness drop that occurs during the transition to parenthood is quantitatively important and holds far more weight than other major changes in the relationship, work, and health of a couple when determining the choice to have more children”, Margolis declared.
The importance of the study was underlined especially considering low fertility rates countries, who should focus on the well-being of the parents after the birth of the first child, in order to have a positive impact on future natality rates.