Study: Parents, Married Couples, Mothers, Religious Happier With Life

By Michael W. Chapman | January 14, 2014 | 3:05pm EST

(AP Photo)

( – While many media outlets are touting the findings from a new British study showing that childless couples are happier with their own partner-relationships than couples with children, the study also shows that when it comes to “happiness with life” overall, those who say they are happier include all parents, people who are married, mothers, those with more education and those who are religious.

Women without children, on the other hand, said they were the least happy with life overall, according to the study, Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century, published  by The Open University in Britain.

The study, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, looks at long-term adult couple relationships and is based upon an online survey of 4,494 UK participants.  Some of the headlines reporting the study read, “Study: Couples Without Children Have Happier Marriages,”    “Childless Couples Have Happier Marriages, Study Reveals” and “Childless Couples Are Happier Than Those With Kids, Study Says.”

Happiness with a relationship is one thing, but happiness with life overall is something different.

As the study itself says, "[A]ll parents score slightly higher on happiness with life than childless participants.”  In addition, “Mothers are significantly happier with life than any other group.”

In the Enduring Love? report, the researchers used a number of questions to come up with five measures: relationships qualities, the couple partnership, relationship maintenance, happiness with relationship/partner, and happiness with life.

The Happiness with Life “measure consists of the question ‘How Happy are you with your life overall?’” Answers were ranked on a scale of 1 (very unhappy) to 5 (very happy).

(AP Photo)

The report’s first set of findings focused on religion, educational qualifications and previous long-term relationships.

For example,  people were asked to identify their religion, if any.  For the Happiness with Life measure, people with a religious identification said they were happier (4.13 out of 5) than those claiming no religion (4.04 out of 5).

On education, people with a post-graduate degree were the happiest with a 4.10 measure – those with an undergraduate degree came next with 4.09 (tied with vocational), while those with lesser education were 4.03 on the happiness scale.

Interestingly, those surveyed who said they had experienced no previous long-term relationship were happier with life overall (4.09) than those who had previously experienced a long-term relationship (4.06).

When it came to couples with children – straight parents and homosexual parents – the survey revealed that couples with kids were happier with life overall than couples without children.

“Parenting is the determining factor that cuts across these categories irrespective of sexuality,” says the report.  “Parents report that they ‘do’ less relationship maintenance than childless participants. Heterosexual parents are the least likely to be there for each other, to make ‘couple time’, to say ‘I love you’ to each other, to talk about everything and to pursue shared interests. There are, however, no significant differences in happiness with life between heterosexual and non-heterosexual parents and their childless counterparts, although all parents score slightly higher on happiness with life than childless participants.”

(AP Photo)

The survey also showed that “married/civil partnership participants” were much happier with life than “unmarried participants.”

Married couples put their happiness scale at 4.13 (out of 5) while unmarried couples were at 3.98.

Furthermore, the survey participants who said they were the happiest with life overall were mothers. They measured their happiness at 4.12 on the scale while women without children were at the bottom with a less happy 4.03.

“However, mothers are significantly happier with life than any other group,” reads the report. “We can infer from this that children could be the primary source of happiness for mothers rather than their partner.”

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