The Joys of Parenthood, Reconsidered

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.

online coverage

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

Comments 11

Contexts Crawler » Sociologist Robin Simon on happiness and having children

July 8, 2008

[...] Contexts contributor Robin Simon graced the pages of Newsweek recently to offer some comments on the debate [...]

Contexts Crawler » Sociological Substance on ‘Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me’

July 16, 2008

[...] Check out this past Sunday’s episode of ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,’ on National Public Radio where one of the quiz questions references the work of Contexts Magazine contributor, sociologist Robin Simon. [...]

Contexts Magazine » From the Editors

February 17, 2009

[...] Simon, for example, was featured in Newsweek, among other media outlets, after her piece on the stresses of parenting—also excerpted in the Utne Reader—appeared in these pages last spring. We were [...]

From the Editors » Contexts

July 28, 2009

[...] Simon, for example, was featured in Newsweek, among other media outlets, after her piece on the stresses of parenting—also excerpted in the Utne Reader—appeared in these pages last spring. We were [...]

Great writing on parenthood: “Bundle of Trouble” : Portia St. Luke

August 25, 2009

[...] The following excerpt appeared in the Utne Reader.  The complete original article is available from Contexts Magazine. [...]

Are married people happier? Are parents? | The Health Culture

July 15, 2010

[...] and emotional distress than the childless. And, supporting Somers’ findings, Robin W. Simon says that parents of grown children are no happier than the childless (emphasis added): [This] [...]

The Great Happiness Debate: Parenting Wins, Hands Down | Mommyish

July 7, 2011

[...] highlights the work of Robin Simon, a sociologist at Wake Forest University, whose study found that parents are more depressed than non-parents no matter what their circumstances – whether they’re single or married, whether they have one child or [...]

School’s back in session, but not for long

January 3, 2012

[...] of us have felt during these winter break days reminded me of the attention getting results of a 2008 study that claimed parents experience more depression and emotional distress than [...]


April 2, 2012

For those who think kids are supposed to "make you happy" - I think that's impossible... kids are supposed to be kids going through the business of growing up, not working on their parents' happiness. What makes me happy - and I *think* what makes parenting rewarding - is knowing you have another person besides yourself to live and sacrifice for. Being middle-aged or elderly and not having ANYONE but yourself to care for or consider would (at least for me) make for a pretty meaningless and empty life. Even the annoying and irritating aspects of parenting make it worthwhile to know you are part of a whole that is bigger than yourself and your spouse.


April 9, 2012

Uhm— get a pet? Volunteer? Be a big sister or brother? Be a mentor? Be a companion to an elderly person? I mean, seriously, there are many many ways to contribute and self-sacrifice without becoming a parent. One of the most generous, kind, and amazing women that I know has no kids but volunteered to help with relief efforts in Japan after last year's disaster and also does several volunteer projects related to the environment. I think a lot of people become parents due to social pressure and/or to pass on their legacy, genes, etc. Not exactly altruistic reasons.

Newsflash: Parenting Actually Doesn’t Make You Miserable! | My Family Blog

May 9, 2012

[...] Parenting," has suggested that having kids is a pretty straight path to misery. In fact, one study concluded that marital satisfaction and happiness in general plummeted after birthing a baby and [...]

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