“Happiness Before and After Kids”- How Many Children Should You Have and When?

Happy FamilyOK, this blog is a bit silly.  Many of us have children when they come.  We don’t exactly plan each pregnancy nor should we say we don’t take measures to make sure we won’t get pregnant.

If you could use research on happiness and the effects children have on our happiness what would be the ideal family size and at what age should you start having children?

This study in the journal Demography, “Happiness: Before and after kids” (which you can read here… ) showed that parents  age 35-49 have the highest gains in happiness around the time of birth that is sustained. Teenage parents have a declining happiness that does not increase above baseline even after the child comes and the first year.  Parents ages 23-34 have increasing happiness before the first birth but 1-2 years later the happiness has decreased to baseline or below baseline.

For the older parents (35-49) a second child increases happiness but a third child does not further increase happiness.  It does not mean the third child is loved less or seen as a negative by these parents.

Take home message: Wait until you are at least 23 years old, and maybe longer. It makes sense that those who have the loving relationship (two parents who get along and both want a child) and financial means to raise a child, would find this experience to be positive.  Unless you are crazy like I am (3 biological and 10 total children), it may be best to only have two children. Being a dad in his 50’s, I can also say that waiting too long may have it’s challenges for some.

I wouldn’t change a thing.  I hope if you already have children, you feel the same way.  If you happen to be struggling in the happiness department, at least now you know you are not alone!



Dr. Paul


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