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Motherhood and Happiness

Gene Pinder

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Whether a woman has had children or not isn't likely to affect her psychological well-being in later life. That's the conclusion reached by several researchers in a recent study about childrearing.

This study suggests that the outlook for psychological well-being later in life for today's childless women is quite good. The researchers looked at data on 6,000 women between the ages of 51 and 61 from two different national surveys that included common measures for psychological well-being.

According to their analysis, all other things being equal, the childless women were about as satisfied and happy with their lives as the on-time mothers. Interestingly, researchers said that even more important than when one becomes a mother is whether she has anyone else to love in her life. They say that whether or not a woman has a husband, a significant other or close social relationships in her life as she ages is what's critical.

Researchers also found another interesting tidbit - the highest level of well-being was among mothers who were most likely to have children still living at home or still in college. The study suggests that delaying motherhood may have some benefits for women-probably related to “being more career focused and having higher social standing. "

The study also showed that early mothers were the least satisfied and most depressed of all the groups. Early mothers were also the most likely to be single and to have lower incomes-factors that probably explain their lower psychological well-being. Delayed mothers tended to have more education and higher economic status than other groups, and were much more likely than early mothers to be married.

Gene Pinder is the assistant director of an executive master's program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also the author of The Psychology of Satisfaction and Happiness , a blog focusing on the current science and research of well-being. A journalist and marketer by training, Gene is also an artist of original oils and acrylic paintings .


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