One Kid is Best

Scientists are studying whether having children makes the parents happy and they are finding interesting results.

In comparing identical twins, Kohler found that mothers with one child are about 20 percent happier than their childless counterparts; and while fathers’ happiness gains are smaller, men enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness boost from a firstborn son than from a firstborn daughter. The first child’s sex doesn’t matter to mothers, perhaps because women are better than men at enjoying the company of both girls and boys, Kohler speculates.

Interestingly, second and third children don’t add to parents’ happiness at all. In fact, these additional children seem to make mothers less happy than mothers with only one child—though still happier than women with no children.

“If you want to maximize your subjective well-being, you should stop at one child,” concludes Kohler, adding that people probably have additional children either for the benefit of the firstborn or because they reason that if the first child made them happy, the second one will, too.

It looks like we have maximized our happiness with one kid. But unlike the men in this study, I really wanted a girl.

You can read the actual paper by Hans-Peter Kohler, Jere R. Behrman and Axel Skytthe. The abstract follows:

Economic and rational-choice theories suggest that individuals form unions or have children because these decisions increase their subjective well-being or “happiness.” We investigate this relation using within-MZ (identical) twin pair estimates to control for unobserved factors, such as optimistic preferences, that may simultaneously affect happiness, partnerships, and fertility. Our findings based on Danish twins aged 25-45 and 50-70 years old include the following. (1) Currently being in a partnership has large positive effects on happiness. (2) A first child substantially increases well-being, in analyses without controls for partnerships, and males enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness gain from a first-born son than from a first-born daughter; however, only females enjoy a happiness gain from the first-born child with control for partnerships. (3) Additional children beyond the first child have a negative effect on subjective well-being for females, while there is no effect for males. (4) Ever having had children does not significantly affect the subjective well-being of males or females aged 50-70 years.

Hat-tip: Marginal Revolution.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. wayfarer: This study was only about parental happiness. However, someone must have done a study on the dependence of child happiness on the number of siblings.

  2. The analysis is half-baked because study on child’s behaviour is very much related. It is biased because the existing economic situation has greatly influenced the researcher. May not be father but mother is influnced by her child’s happiness more than her own easiness, financial or physical. I have seen several single children feeling lonely and sometimes asking their mothers, “Mama! with whom should I play? Bring one baby for me”. Lone child generally gets in to some complex and starts behaving in strange manner, bogged down or over-active to the extent of misbehaviour.

  3. I suspect that their sample population significantly influenced this study’s outcome. Their sample only included Danish twins; so, they were only studying Danish families. Western Europe has become a place where most women bare less than 2 children. These findings may simply reflect the attitudes of Danish couples of child baring age and may mean little beyond Western Europe.

  4. I forgot one thing. It has been observed that baby girls, specifically, want a younger sibling without whom they feel handicapped.

  5. Dad: Let’s do an experiment. Let’s see how your only grandkid turns out.

    Captain Arrrgh: That is indeed possible. Someone should replicate this study in other countries.

  6. I mentioned what I had seen happening among our relations. Sometimes a baby girl having only brothers askes for a sister to play. This is what your own sister (my daughter) had been demanding as a baby.

  7. I never read the whole post but anyhow i being a Pakistani would never agree on that, though most of you will agree with you too.Though am too young but i think one kid cannot be enough at all!

    and lolz i was wondering what will the Pakistani Govt health ministry say after this report regarding “Bachhay do hee acchay” slogan they have all over!!!

  8. Well no doubt childern are the great blessing Of Allah..But if you think that you can’t complete the requirements of more than one child,then its the false belief!! we all came to this world by GOD Grace and he will always be there to provide us everything .. we should ask everything from AllAH ..and no doubt he is almighty and we should thank GOD for the things he bestowed upon us ….
    one thing more that most folks thinks that girls are superiour to men but this is just a weird concept .. but are equal and we should should thank GOD for giving us childern

  9. Shaby: The logic you have given is used to oppose any family planning, but I don’t think it makes sense. Consider that we have to make efforts to put food on the table, to stay healthy, etc.

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