A Psychologist Considers Why The Childfree Might Be Happier

In a new contribution to the debate over the relationship between happiness and parenting, psychologist Ellen Walker proposes five explanations for her finding that childfree people are happier than parents. Here they are in her words:

1. It’s easier for childfree adults to stay physically healthy.
2. Childfree adults have an easier time holding onto a youthful attitude.
3. Childfree women have an easier time keeping their girlish figures than women who have borne children.
4. Childfree couples are happier than couples with kids.
5. All that free time actually is a good thing.

Numbers 2 and 5 in particular go against the societal grain. We generally prize maturity and castigate childishness, and as for busyness, complaining about how little free time one has is practically a form of bragging, at least here in New York City. But a youthful attitude is not the same thing as childishness, and having free time doesn’t mean one doesn’t contribute to society. Walker’s thought-provoking analysis is brief and worth a read.


4 thoughts on “A Psychologist Considers Why The Childfree Might Be Happier

  1. snowconomics says:

    Well, certainly childfree people tend to look much younger than parents, of the same age. About 2 and 5, I’d say it isn’t a matter of “holding onto a youthful attitude”. Yes, the childfree might take more risks than the parent, or even take more time to plan and take decisions. Why? The childfree doesn’t have the pressure of the children. Also, well, I would much debate the “childish” attitude. If you pay close attention, children relate better to the childfree because the childfree remembers still what’s to be a son/daughter, something parents forget. This doesn’t make the childfree childish, but doesn’t rather make the parent childish by forgeting to consider the point of view of the child and act out as a “parent empowered by the parental authority”? I often wonder who is more selfish, or selfish at all: the childfree who decides not to have children, or the parent who decides to hav children and then expects their entourage to bear with them and give them a special treatment.

    As for free time, I would rephrase that. Both parents and childfree have the same time everyday, it’s a matter of how we decide to handle it. Childfree people could be working 24/7 at the office, organizing events, doing charity, helping people in need, learning new things… It must start with defining “free time” and then add value to it: is it used up in a way that you personally find satisfying, fulfilling, useful, or is it wasted, spent on things that don’t make you particularly happy? It’s not the amount of time you have in your hands, but the way you spend it. Wouldn’t you say?

    Why are we happier? If you ask me, a childfree, as you may have guessed by now, it’s not because we are youthful or healthier, or look prettier, or have more free time, but because we still own ourselves, we are the ones calling the shots in our lives and living it the way we wish to, knowing that anytime it doesn’t fulfill us anymore, nothing holds us back to make the change we need. We don’t complain and whine about the things we can’t do, we do them, and if we can, we either measure how important is to us and either give it up willingly, not looking back at it, or work on making it happen.

  2. jbgreene28 says:

    But I can’t blame my kids when I lose that figure!

  3. Marilyn says:

    The childfree have stereotyped themselves as much as they do their peers with kids. I am childfree-by-choice so I am not here bashing the CF. When it comes to body size, CF women come in all sizes just as their friends or family members with children. Being childfree-by-choice does not always mean a “girlish” figure. Often, those impossible body sizes are only meant for girls and not adult women. How many women with children still maintain a size 6 due to genetics or job (where she is constantly on the go)?

  4. piperhoffman says:

    @Marilyn I agree about the girlish figure. I don’t know whether it is correlated with having been pregnant or not, but I do believe that it is not a goal that adult women should aim for or measure themselves against.

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