Unhappy Parents May Mean More Only Children

Parents who were unhappy after the birth of their first child were less likely to have another baby

The passage to parenthood can rock even the happiest of couples. But what happens if you find that you and your partner are unhappy after baby?

A new study from Germany found that couples who perceived a drop in life satisfaction in the first year after they became parents had a lower probability of having a second child.

"Parents' experience with and after the first birth helped predict how large the family will be eventually," said lead study author Mikko Myrskylä, PhD, in a press release. "Politicians concerned about low birthrates should pay attention to the well-being of new parents around and after the birth of their first child."

Dr. Myrskylä is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.

Dr. Myrskylä and team used data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) to look at 20,000 couples.

Each year, these couples reported their happiness on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the happiest.

When these couples became parents for the first time, their overall happiness droped an average of 1.4 points.

This number is significant because, according to Dr. Myrskylä and team, a 1-point drop is equivalent to the unhappiness caused by unemployment or the death of a partner.

More than one third of new parents reported a drop of 2 or more points, while about 30 percent said their level of happiness didn’t change.

The greater the drop in happiness, the less likely the couple was to have a second child within 10 years.

In the couples whose happiness didn’t change, 66 percent had a second baby.

Dr. Myrskylä and team found that the effect was stronger in parents who were well-educated and older.

However, income, place of birth and marital status did not affect the decision to have a second child.

This study was published in the August issue of the journal Demography.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.