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First child causes greater drop in happiness than death of a partner

Parents experience a greater drop in happiness after the birth of their first child than that caused by unemployment, divorce or even the death of a partner, according to new research.

A study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany indicates that the majority of first-time parents experience a decline in life satisfaction, when compared to the two years before the child’s birth, and that this can make a second child significantly less likely.

20,000 people were surveyed over a number of years and asked to rate their general happiness on a scale of one to ten.

Following an initial increase immediately after the birth of a first child, people reported an average decline in happiness equivalent to 1.4 units on the scale over the subsequent year.  Fewer than 30 per cent of respondents did not feel any drop in happiness, while over a third reported a drop of two units or more.

International studies using the same scale have found that unemployment or the death of a partner causes an average decline in happiness of one unit, while divorce causes an average decline of 0.6 units.

The latest results are independent of income, place of birth or the marital status of the couples.

Last year a survey in the U.S. found that women’s happiness in a marriage begins to wane immediately, regardless of childbirth, and does not recover.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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