[ home | books | websites | mailing list | potpourri ]

"Couples in Pre-Kid, No-Kid Marriages Happiest"
© 1997 USAToday

August 12, 1997

For all the joys of parenthood, the first baby's arrival spurs a long drop in marital happiness that hits its nadir during a child's teen years, a new national survey shows.

Couples don't approach pre-baby levels of marriage satisfaction until all their "babies" are on their own, says sociologist Mary Benin of Arizona State University, Tempe.

She reported her findings on 6,785 spouses to the American Sociological Association, meeting this week in Toronto. Past studies have found a similar U-shaped curve for couple contentment, but Benin's is the first to track people over time; to cover a large, nationally representative group of spouses; and to look at the impact of "kids" over 18, who often live at home for a while.

The dip in satisfaction when baby arrives doesn't surprise Benin. "It's such an abrupt transition, going from an adult to a baby-centered household."

As children grow, households get more hectic. Volcanic teen eruptions can upset marriages further. Happiness takes an upturn when kids at home are over 18, but then husbands feel more happily married than wives.

"Even if kids have been away, families tend to revert back to their old habits at this time - and that means extra household work for the wife but not the husband," says University of Minnesota family psychologist Pauline Boss. This could be a key source of the sex difference, she suggests.

When children are living independently, marital satisfaction surges back up.

Childless spouses are as happy as couples are before babies arrive. Without the buffeting cycles of child rearing, they tend to stabilize at this high level over time, Benin says.

Back to Potpourri

© the childfree-by-choice pages