Economist story on U Cal-Riverside prof, Sonja Lyubomirsky, looking at World Value Survey, which gathers vast amounts of polling data from people all over the world.
She looked at US answers to four particular questions:
- How many kids do you have?
- How satisfied are you with your life?
- How happy are you?
- How often do you consider the meaning of life?
What was interesting is that children corresponded to significantly more happiness for men, but not for women.
The prof then followed up with several hundred more NorthAm volunteers to whom she gave pagers. Controlling for all the usual aspects, she would ring them randomly and give them a sort of happiness poll. She did this to control for nostalgia among older subjects (i.e., they remember the child-rearing more fondly later than at the time they did it). She found that her data supported the World Values Survey completely:
Parents claimed more positive emotion and more meaning in their lives than non-parents, and a closer look revealed that it was fathers who most enjoyed these benefits. Moreover, further analysis revealed that this enhanced enjoyment came from activities which involved children rather than those (such as watching television alone, or cooking) that did not.
The Economist's conclusion is rather interesting as well:
It looks, then, as if evolution has bolted into men a psychological mechanism to keep them in the family.
Women, it is surmised, don't need this additional tether.
I will attest to all of this. I work away all day at a table just off our kitchen (only place my Skype works consistently in our house), and it's mostly solitary labor.
Then, at the end of the day, I run with my son Jerry and daughter Vonne Mei, pushing the two youngest girls in a buggy. Eldest daughter home from college roller-blades alongside. Then Jerry and I usually toss football and talk NFL for a bit. Then I pull the girls on my bike and ride with Vonne Mei to a gas station about 2&1/2 miles away for candy. After dinner, I often rebraid Metsu and Abebu's hair, and then we'll watch a movie together.
My work day is mostly exertion and tension, my after-workday is mostly fun and enjoyment. If I do just the first and skip the second, Jack becomes a dull boy.