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New Research Shows Why Having Kids Doesn't Make Some Parents Happy

Having children could reduce your happiness and it's all about the bottom line, according to new research.

While numerous studies over the years have shown that parental bliss is not a surety, this research is the first to demonstrate the single factor that weighed heavily on parents’ well-being.

In a new working paper,  Dartmouth College economics professor David Blanchflower and Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics, detailed the importance of a crucial variable -- money.

The academics set out to reconcile a mismatch -- if kids can make parents unhappy, why would they continue to multiply?

"I think the results make sense and resolve the earlier findings that do not," Blanchflower told 10 daily.

"If kids didn’t make people happy why would they have two?"

The study, distributed by the U.S. Natonal Bureau of Economic Research, analysed life satisfaction survey data of one million Europeans in 35 countries from 2009 to 2018.

READ MORE: '8 Reasons Why Having Kids Ruined My Life'

“Controlling for financial difficulties, we then find that children now increase happiness. Why else would you have them? This appears to solve the puzzle in the literature,” the authors wrote.

The data (collected by the European Union) captured people’s self-reported satisfaction with their lives as well as their answer to the question: “During the last twelve months, would you say you had difficulties to pay your bills at the end of the month?”

So, if you subtract the stress of struggling to pay bills from the equation, then parents with financial freedom would be more jovial. Easy, right?

Let's take a look at some local figures.

There are more than 300,000 babies born in Australia every year, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and this number continues to increase year on year.

IMAGE: Getty Images

The latest estimates of the costs of raising children in Australia show costs have risen substantially over the last two decades, due to changing community expectations of what children need to live a healthy life.

A 2016  report  shows that for a typical middle-class Australian family, the average cost of raising a child to 17 years of age was over $297,600.

While child-raising costs have gone up by 45 percent in the past 10 years, Aussie household incomes have only risen by about 23 percent. This means the cost of raising kids is growing at almost double the rate of our earning capacity.

READ MORE: 'Why I Broke My Daughter's Arm' 

READ MORE: Why Kids Lie, And When You Should Start To Worry

Research carried out by the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre in 2018 used a ‘budget standards’ to calculate the cost of raising children to cover essential needs only.

This included the cost of children’s food, clothing and footwear, health, personal care and school expenses and their share of household expenses like housing, household goods and services (including energy) and transport costs.

The estimated weekly costs for low-paid families of raising two children -- a six-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy -- is $340 per week

While at the lower unemployed standard, the weekly costs of raising two children is $280 per week, or $140 a week per child.

Finances aside, academics Blanchflower and Clark  point to some other variables that are linked to parents’ unhappiness:

  • Children under the age of 10 appear to bring their parents more happiness than do children a few years over 10.
  • Single parents are, on average, less happy than coupled parents.
  • Life with step-children was linked with lower life satisfaction than life with one’s own kids.

"All children are not the same, with step-children commonly having a more negative correlation than children from the current relationship."

The authors point to an important lever available to policy makers to ease the pressures on parents ( and encourage more childbearing) -- and that's to provide more government financial support.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au