As you read, consider the flaw of the following psychological study’s conclusion: women, within the same age range, were given monitors. During the length of the study, the researcher would contact them on the monitor periodically throughout the day. At that very moment, the women were to record their level of happiness on 1-10 scale in their happiness journal.
The variance of the study’s participants: half were new mothers, half had no children. Women with no children had higher happiness scores based on their diary entries. The researcher’s conclusion: having children decreases women’s happiness.
Intuitively, most people sense that the conclusion is wrong even if they cannot immediately articulate their reasoning.
The problem was the study’s methodology. Women were essentially being asked: “how would you rate the enjoyment level of the activity you are doing right now?” New mothers were changing a diaper, cleaning messes, or doing one of the thousand selfless tasks that new mothers do. Further, they were doing so on very little sleep. It would not be hard for any single person to be engaging in activities that were more enjoyable.
Fortunately, a more sensible research group understood this point. In defense of parenthood: children are associated with more joy than misery (Nelson) asked the same two groups about their overall life happiness. The women had time to reflect. In this study, the happiness levels of parents easily beat non-parents. The reason, of course, is that lives of purposefulness and meaning, even and perhaps especially due to hard work, lead to happier lives.
I recently gave a speech in Madison, CT. I told a group of high school students about the aforementioned study and asked them how the findings of the study relates to their lives. A surprising number provided the correct answer. Translating teen speak, they noted that those that work hard are the metaphorical equivalent of parents. They are leading lives of meaning and purpose as they build themselves to becoming productive and HAPPY – young adults.
For more, see Career Counseling Connecticut.