The families with the highest levels of life satisfaction have at least four children, a new Australian study suggests.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Perth interviewed almost 950 parents from various backgrounds. The respondents were asked questions about their family life and their levels of happiness.
The parents who said they were most satisfied with their lives were those with large families of at least four children.
Study author Dr Bronwyn Harman is a psychology and social sciences lecturer at the western Australian university. She expressed great surprise at her findings because she thought that “mothers of large families would be less satisfied because of the financial stress”. Such respondents told her that having a large family was “a joyful experience” and that their “house was often full of laughter”.
“Social support within the family” was strongest among those with more children, Dr Harman reported. Respondents told her that with a large number of siblings, the children “are never bored, they have someone to play with, and they get independence quite early on”.
The happiness experienced by these parents was not diminished by the fact that they receive a lot of questions about their lives such as “Are you Catholic?” and “Do all your children have the same father?”
Dr Harman was also surprised by the group which registered the second highest levels of happiness over the five year study: parents from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. She had initially thought that such parents would report low levels of wellbeing as a result of “discrimination and lack of acceptance”, but that did not turn out to be the case. In fact, the reverse appears to be true, with many LGBT parents claiming that “society is becoming more accepting of diversity”.
Another explanation for these findings Dr Harman offered was that children of LGBT couples were never accidents. Such parents “have to go to a lot of trouble and expense and forethought — so the child is very much desired”, she said. Children in LGBT families are seen as “an absolute blessing and something [the parents] may not have considered as being possible for them”.
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