Married couples with children are less happy than childless married couples, says report

The Happily Ever After?


The report, entitled “Baby Makes Three” from the National Marriage Project is just the latest installment, in what seems to be, a never-ending series of academic reports that find that those of us who are married with kids are less happy than our childless married friends.

Here’s just a sample of some of the other reports:

  • 1994 Penn State study said that, “two-thirds of married -couples report a decline in their marital relationship upon the birth of their children.”

Ten years later, things hadn’t improved at all.

  • An August 2005 report from the University of Washington found the same thing.
  • In December 2005 study of 13,000 people published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior said parents reported being more miserable (“sad, distracted or depressed”) than non-parents.


Maybe we should be depressed by these reports, but isn’t there something comforting about knowing that almost every couple, no matter how happy and secure their marriage may be, find the early parenting years a challenge (on a good day) or even seriously relationship-threatening on a bad day? In other words, we’re all in the same boat. Most of the post-baby marital problems we’re having are not personal, they are universal.

In this latest study, the authors found that one-third of the 1,400 participating couples had high marital satisfaction even after parenthood. So what are these happily-marrieds doing, that the rest of us should try?

Moms were more likely to be happy in marriage if they had, in order:

1. Sexual satisfaction. Really? This was a surprise to me. But then I read the report a little more closely and discovered this little gem …

“[W]omen are more likely to report that they are sexually satisfied when they report that they share housework with their husbands.”  We’ve been saying it to men for years – pitch in if you want her to put out –  it’s so nice, now, to have the weight of the academic world behind us.

2. Commitment

3. Generosity to their husbands, including what the report calls “small acts of service” like making coffee for him, and being affectionate. Interesting that it is the performance ofnot the receiving of, kindnesses that makes us moms more happy. If we treat our partners well, our marriages will be happy. We get what we give.

4. Good attitude about raising kids. We all know how important this one is. As with almost all things in life attitude is everything. William, married 8 years with 2 kids sums it up well:

“When you have a house full of kids, it’s either going to be really crazy and really fun or it’s going to be hell. Whether it’s fun or it’s hell is up to you. You can try to laugh or you can bitch and moan your way through the early years.

5. Social support from family and friends


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One Response to Married couples with children are less happy than childless married couples, says report

  1. Megan Bass says:

    Very interesting! Love knowing that my husband now “gets” to help with the laundry, etc., or else….

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