Study: The Parental Happiness Curve Leans Towards Big Families



In their 2011 State of Our Unions report (When Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful, and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable) W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt found, like other researchers, that parenthood is typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness among contemporary couples. But that is not the whole picture by any means, as they explain in the following excerpt from the report, subtitled, "Family Size, Faith, and the Meaning of Parenthood".

Given the negative association between marital happiness and parenthood, one might expect that the least happy husbands and wives would be parents of large families. Not so.

In a striking finding, it turns out that the relationship between family size and marital happiness is not linear, but curvilinear (see Figure A1). In other words, according to the Survey of Marital Generosity, the happiest husbands and wives among today’s young couples are those with no children and those with four or more children.


  1. davide
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    my parents have eleven (11) children and they are very happy as are us kids.

  2. JR
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I am one of 9 and was raised in a very loving household.

  3. Little man
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Does that count sperm donors?

  4. Daughter of Eve
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Celebrating 18 years of wedded bliss on Dec. 28. LOVE our 5 kids! 1+1=7 in our family, and we feel very blessed, and very happy.

  5. Bobby
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I'm pretty sure the happiness curve goes in the opposite direction for the kids. Isn't it NOM that's always saying that raising children isn't about the happiness of adults, but the well being if children? Can you please try to keep your propaganda straight? Pointing out the inconsistencies gets tiring.

  6. Bryce K.
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    Our world is overpopulated as it is. We don't need more such irresponsibility.

  7. ResistSSA
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I'm one of 6 from the best parents in the world.

    Outside of my wife and kids, my closest relationships are with my brothers and sisters (mom/dad have passed). I'm close with my siblings because they are my siblings: we come from the same parents, same genetics, same blood. Such special relationships that I could have with no one else in the world. Moms and dads matter; brothers and sisters matter.

  8. davide
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    @ resist i beg to differ my parents are the 'best parents in the world' :) . I hear what you are saying about siblings. It's funny ppl assume with many kids there must be a lot of fighting. But this is not so. We rarely fight. When we do fight, sides are chosen. Then it becomes a brawl. LOL

  9. JR
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I grew up with 8 siblings. We had and still have occasional fights. I would certainly not say we were unhappy because friends growing up in smaller families had more physical possessions than we did. I feel a closeness to my siblings that I certainly do not and never will feel with friends. I am thankful I grew up in a large family. As a gay man I don't want to see people judge other families. I hate to see the terms pro-marriage and and pro-family misused by so many.

  10. Ash
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I have many siblings, but I was only raised with two under a close-knit, intact married home. My parents did not lead perfect lives. Some unwed child-bearing and divorce played into their stories before I came along. And no doubt, these troubles manifested in the lives of their "outside" children, and the children after them. They are amazing parents, but their lives demonstrate, for me, the importance of children having quality parents combined together in a life-long, quality marriage. Needless to say, a big broken family doesn't create happiness for anyone.

    I ask them if they take any offense to my railing on about the societal devastation of single motherhood and divorce, and they respond with an emphatic "No!" They always encourage me to continue speaking, and they always try to apply what I've learned about family structure to their past, as well as to the current situations of others. I have to watch Dad, though, because he likes to tell what I teach him to various people, and sometimes mixes the information, lol. I need to give him a fact sheet that he can carry around and reference when he starts his random "family structure" conservations with others.

    Thankfully, all of my siblings are now drawing together into a big, happy family. And I'm looking forward to the sprouting of a strong marriage culture in the family's current and future generations.

    @Resist and Davide, sorry, but my parents are THE best parents in the world ;)

    @DoE, congrats on the upcoming anniversary!

  11. Daughter of Eve
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Overpopulation, huh? Time to get up to speed on the facts.

    A "Demographic Winter" is upon many a country, and reversing the damage will be very difficult.

  12. John N.
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    @ Resist, Davide, and most of all DOE; Happy to read the stories of your family and it is your testimony that shows why we are in this fight. Your situation is the proof that NOM's fight is the truly just one, and why it is the SSM activists are wrong and here is why.

    I am single and so therefore have no wife or siblings. However I support NOM because you see the families of DOE, Resist, and Davide benefit me even though I have never met them.

    How so. It is their siblings and children who pay the future entitlement taxes that will fund my Social Security and Medicare. This is the reason why I as a single person never objected to the state benefits that were granted to your family through your marriage. Since your offspring were paying the future entitlement taxes you were justified in getting federal and state benefits not available to us singles. ( BY THE WAY HAS ANYONE AT NOM EVER NOTICED THAT WHEN THE HOMOSEXUALS SCREAM SECOND CLASS STATUS WHEN DENIED THESE BENEFITS BY THE STATE FROM MARRIAGE, THESE BENEFITS ARE ALSO NOT AVAILABLE TO US SINGLES BUT THE GAYS HAVE NO OBJECTION TO THAT)

    This article is important for those of us who are single. By approving SSM the state is stabbing the people who are single in the back.

  13. Bryce K.
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    DOE: What "harm" will be caused by a declining population?

    John N.: The rights gays and lesbians want is the right to marry the love of their life. There are only benefits because there are two people - they can hold joint property, have hospital visitation rights that aren't denied, joint tax filing, etc. By being single, you would have no one to share in those benefits. It would have no impact on you if you signed a marriage contract with yourself.

  14. Daughter of Eve
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Bruce K., please feel free to watch the documentary. That's why I provided a link. Merry Christmas. :)

  15. Louis E.
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Bryce,any society that fails to reserve those rights to opposite-sex relationships is harming itself.Of course,same-sex couples can often circumvent that reservation (medical proxies,etc) but the intrinsically inferior usefulness of their relationships to society must be explicitly acknowledged in law.

  16. Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I loved this article as I have noticed the same thing! I have 7 children myself. My husband and I are best friends and my kids are close. I have noticed a different dynamic with larger families and so I wanted one myself. Even the kids in larger families just seem really happy and content. They are rarely ever spoiled or have that spoiled attitude.

  17. lysleth
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in a family of 9 children. My parents always worked very hard to support us -- they never asked for state assistance, even when my dad lost his job two years before he was scheduled to retire. I really don't understand how this could be called "irresponsible". Yes, my parents are still together, still laugh and work and cuddle together. I think they've got one of the happiest marriages I've seen. And as for myself, my sisters and my mom are my best friends. Weekends and holidays aren't complete unless we all make the trek out to my parents's house to catch up and cook a big family meal together.

  18. grandma lliberty
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I had 7 children... and they are all grown and having children themselves... some of their children are having children..I found that in a large family, you cannot afford all the bells and whistles a smaller family might afford... So when my children wanted something special, guess what they got a job and worked for it... They all have a wonderful work ethic.. and none of them expect something for nothing.. Every Christmas they have a special brothers sisters partty and all of them look forward to it..

  19. James
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The homosexual troll lurks in the shadows,and attempt to twist everything so that it fits their agenda that no civilization wants.Get over it ! Go to your own thread and whine about how it just aint fair.Because in your mind,everybody is crazy but you ! Grow up,and be what you are.Stop trying to justify your disability.Tear down your own family and leave ours alone.

  20. Little man
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Bobby: inconsistencies is in what you wrote on this column thread. Yes, it get tiring...

  21. Little man
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Bryce K.: 'our world'? Which other one could we talk about? I don't think it is 'ours', though. Though USA thinks the rest of the world should conform to it. And no, overpopulation is not the problem in most places. It is the waste of non-renewable resources that's the problem, as other nations get industrialized since the US taught them how; and a bad balance of economic growth with population. Population balances itself, eventually. You just want to judge other people. Makes you feel important. Live and let live.

  22. Daughter of Eve
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Ash said, "@DoE, congrats on the upcoming anniversary!"

    Thank you very much. :)