Sociologists find that as a group, parents in the United States experience depression and emotional distress more often than their childless adult counterparts. Parents of young children report far more depression, emotional distress, and other negative emotions than non-parents, and parents of grown children have no better well-being than adults who never had children. That last finding contradicts the conventional wisdom that empty-nest parents derive all the emotional rewards of parenthood because they’re done with the financially and psychologically taxing aspects of raising young kids. These research findings, of course, fly in the face of our cultural dogma that proclaims it impossible for people to achieve an emotionally fulfilling and healthy life unless they become parents. And that’s a problem, because the vast majority of American men and women eventually have children, yet conditions in our society make it nearly impossible for them to reap all the emotional benefits of doing so.

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online coverage

Who Says Kids Make You Happy?, Newsweek, July 7-14, 2008 issue.