Do Children Make Us Happy?

Nattavudh Powdthavee tries to reconcile studies that suggest children don't make parents happier on balance with our shared belief that they do:

...we tend to believe that the rare but meaningful experiences – such as seeing our children smile for the first time or graduating from university or getting married – would give us massive increases in our happiness. And indeed they do, but these boosts in well-being, often to our surprise, tend not to last for very long.

One explanation for this lies in the nature of these experiences. How often do we think about these rare but meaningful experiences on a day-to-day basis, that is, if we are not prompted to think about them? It is, if you like, like winning a lottery. We may be incredibly happy at first if we win £1,000,000 from the National Lottery. But soon enough that money will go into our bank account or into our other extravagant spending sprees in the forms of nice cars or a big house in the country, most of which, after having got them, we do not spend a lot of time thinking about everyday (see, for example, Kahneman et al., 2006). However, because the experience of winning the lottery is so salient to us – perhaps partly because it is such a rare event – if we are asked to think about it again, we are likely to exaggerate the value that it brings.

(hat tip: Vaughan)

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

Just In