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Kids Make Marriage Worse And Cause Depression

January 15, 2014

Shine on Yahoo has an appropriate Disney-esque view of a study that says that kids make a marriage “miserable,” namely that they don’t believe it. Their take on the study: “we don’t buy it.” According to Shine’s interpretation, mothers are happier than non-mothers but fathers are the malcontents compared to their non-paternal counterparts:

According to the study of more than 5,000 people to be published later this week by Open University in the U.K.,childless couples ranked the quality of their relationships higher, felt more valued by their partners, and (shocker) spent more time maintaining their relationships, going on dates, and having intimate conversations — undoubtedly easier to do when you’re not racing through dinner to relieve the sitter or halting that crazy-deep conversation when the baby starts crying.

Yet, there was also a fascinating gender divide: Mothers were happier than married women without children, but the opposite was true for men — fathers were slightly less content than their childless counterparts.

I don’t know that it’s the baby crying that halts conversation as much as the gender-based work divide when the baby cries. See my post:

What am I surprised by? I am surprised that Shine on Yahoo attempts to delve into this subject by making the generalization that married couples with kids “get real” faster than childless couples, as if having children suddenly opens this magic door to “realdom” that is nonexistent in the childless couple, or that it takes 7 years to open:

So who really has it better? “All couples, whether they have children or not, experience the same declining levels of happiness as the years go by — feeling under-appreciated, lack of sex, decreased communication skills, financial issues. Having kids just accelerates the speed at which those problems occur,” family and relationship expert Laurie Puhn, author of “Fight Less, Love More,” tells Yahoo Shine. In fact, one landmark study showed that couples are unhappier after the first year of parenting than before having children, but that couples without kids become equally unhappy after seven years of marriage.

“Couples with kids have to get real with each other quickly to respond to the urgent needs of children, but their differences are no greater than those of childless couples,” adds Puhn. “The latter just have more time to suppress the same problems.”

So, if you’re worried that having kids will weaken your happy marriage, don’t be. Likewise, if you don’t want children, conceiving because some study indicated you’d be better off is naive and irresponsible. “If children were the tipping point between a happy and unhappy marriage, why do so many empty nesters divorce?” says Puhn. “By that theory, sending them to college should allow couples more time to enjoy each other.”

Couples with kids just get unhappier faster than those without kids. How is that a shining advertisement for having kids? And how does that translate to all the couples who have four kids, ten years together and then split apart like opposing magnets? I don’t get it.

Shine’s article used as one of its references, an article by LiveScience that apparently included this “unrelated” study that also says that having kids leads to less satisfaction:

An unrelated study in 2006 of 13,000 people found parents are more depressed than non-parents. Scientists speculate that the problem is partly a modern one, because parents don’t get as much help at home as they did in previous generations. – See more at:

Oh, of course, not having help makes people more depressed. Where is that good nanny or maid when you need them? That’s the key to happiness!

This Live Science article, while noting that marriages deteriorate after the birth of the first child also just encourages people to wait it out, to look at the satisfaction of “building a family” and the happiness that can bring:

“Couples who do not have children also show diminished marital quality over time,” says Scott Stanley, research professor of psychology at University of Denver. “However, having a baby accelerates the deterioration, especially seen during periods of adjustment right after the birth of a child.”

Stanley did the research with Texas A&M psychologist Brian Doss, lead author of the study, detailed in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Children don’t ruin everything, Stanley points out.

“There are different types of happiness in life and that while some luster may be off marital happiness for at least a time during this period of life, there is a whole dimension of family happiness and contentment based on the family that couples are building,” he said. “This type of happiness can be powerful and positive but it has not been the focus of research.”

Never mind that you can’t stand sharing the same breath with that slob who expects you to take care of the baby while his life hasn’t changed one bit and he can’t see why it should, because you can’t let it all go if you hold up the holy idea of family in your head.  Of course this is a type of happiness that no one cares enough to study and not many people recognize, but go ahead and hold on to that one while you desperately hate the person with whom you procreated…

Whoever comes up with these commentaries is trying to skew the fact that marriage is tough, having a baby is tougher yet, and then you have to get along while you raise that child, an insurmountable task for many. Does having a baby stress a relationship? Yes. Does adding a third person to a relationship stress that relationship? Yes. So what’s all this namby-pamby whiny shit about how having a baby leads people to strive for a utopian ideal of a nebulous concept of building a family? Sounds suspiciously like telling the woman to put the apron back on and get back in the kitchen for the good of the country or something equally inane.

The study that blamed parenting depression on lack of help? Well, the author speculated about that, but the times that parents were most depressed were when they weren’t with their kids, not a time that parents would need more help:

The depressing results seem to be across the board in a study of 13,000 people. No type of parent reported less depression than non-parents, Simon said.

Some parents are more depressed than others, however. Parents of adult children, whether they live at home or not, and parents who do not have custody of their minor children have more symptoms of depression than those with young children all in the nest, regardless of whether they are biological children, step children or adopted.

You can’t make the argument that parents are depressed because they need more help when the depression peaks at times that children aren’t at home. And therein lies the untruth in these speculations, that someone looks at the data and assigns a subjective emotive response to the facts that parents are more depressed than non-parents but that somehow this could change. Let’s face it: having kids is a stressful endeavor and one that impacts us for the rest of our lives.  No wonder this can lead to marital problems, not taking into account the mindless concept of “getting real” as if we all live in a cartoon for the majority of our lives and turn off the technicolor for childrearing.

So, Shine, on Yahoo, and Elise Sole, I don’t buy it. Having kids can make your marriage miserable, as attested to by the divorce rate of parents. Let’s not sugarcoat things, because otherwise it sounds suspiciously, hmm, well, sexist. Don’t you all pine away for babies, babies and more babies? Yeah, not so much, because even women have a limit to the number of babies for which they can provide. Babies mean more than coos and giggles and doll-like clothes, and even being a woman, I can see that.

So, if you’re worried that having kids will weaken your happy marriage, don’t be. Likewise, if you don’t want children, conceiving because some study indicated you’d be better off is naive and irresponsible. “If children were the tipping point between a happy and unhappy marriage, why do so many empty nesters divorce?” says Puhn. “By that theory, sending them to college should allow couples more time to enjoy each other.”

The reason many couples (with or without children) split up is because they haven’t developed the right communication skills to weather the highs and lows of marriage. “Respecting each other, resolving problems, and learning from mistakes will make a relationship grow, not having a baby,” she says.

Maybe talking about the reality of childbearing is more in order, rather than cooing about relationships in pastel colors and gurgling about happy marriages. Their key phrase is “worried about having kids will weaken your happy marriage,” and frankly, I think people should be. Data supports the argument that having a kid will stress your marriage.  Why pretend otherwise?

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