Parents With Four Or More Kids Are Happier, According To Researchers

By Vidhya Ravi, lifehack.org

Want to be a happier parent? Grow your family to at least four children! According to a study out of Australia’s Edith Cowan University, parents with the most life satisfaction (which means those who are the happiest) are those that have four or more children. Dr. Bronwyn Harman, lecturer at the school of psychology and social science at the university, spent the last five years interviewing a range of different families (single parent, same sex, multiple children, single child, etc.) to evaluate their life satisfaction across a variety of categories, and her findings show that parents with four are more children are the most satisfied with their lives.

Four (or more) kids may seem like a lot, but here’s why a large family may actually make you happier.

They have an on-demand playgroup.

Having a sibling means that you have a built in playmate – particularly if you’re close in age. In particular, large families benefit from this as older children interact with younger children when they play and have the chance to learn from each other. The better your kids are at entertaining each other, the less you have to make arrangements for them to meet with other children for play dates.

In an ABC Austrailia article about her research on families, Dr. Harman goes on to explain “The kids are never bored, they have someone to play with and they get independence quite early on.”

They have a built in support network.

Parenting in isolation can be lonely. Support networks are a critical part of finding fulfillment in parenting, and while we traditionally think of these support networks as other parents or adults, your children may be able to fill this void. Children close in age can play with each other, and give their parents a chance to sit back versus having to be actively involved. Older children may be able to step in and care for younger siblings, either through baby sitting, or even just by providing company or helping out with homework. They can pitch in with household chores as well.

They are used to the crazy.

There is no point crying over spilt milk because it happens all the time! When you have four or more chilren in the house, things will be chaotic, unstructured, and just downright crazy at times. And you’re used to it, because it’s been a long time since you’ve known any different.

In the same previously referenced article, Dr. Harman explained, “Parents accept that there is chaos in their lives but it does not negate the happiness they get from their families.”

They are more resilient, and so are their kids.

You know what requests are important and what things aren’t urgent. Your kids do, too. With more siblings, no one can be the center of attention all the time, and patience is required for almost everything. That means that they are used to waiting to be served at dinner, or even that their ask for a cupcake with green frosting may not be granted every time.

Their kids are more independent.

If you had to wait for three other people to finish something before you had your turn, you’d be incented to learn how to do things for yourself, too! And that’s definitely the case with children with more than three siblings. Why wait for someone to pour you a glass of milk, or help you pack your suitcase for the upcoming vacation, when you can do it yourself? This helps mom and dad – with your kids gaining independence earlier than singletons or even children with just one sibling, that means that you can take some childcare tasks off your plate sooner.

They were prepared for this experience.

In the ABC Australia article, Dr. Harman brought this to light quite welll, “These children are not accidents – the parents have to go to a lot of trouble and expense and forethought – so the child is very much desired.”

Most parents with four or more children planned to have big families. That means that they were ready and eager to experience all the ups and downs of life with four or more kids in the house! Having a large family is something you relish and are proud of, so you enjoy the experience.

They have stronger family bonds and relationships.

In addition to a support system, your family has to learn how to get along with each other. That means that you’ve been through sibling rivalries, compromise, and difficult situations together. These bonds last a life time, teach children and parents how to work together and guide healthy human relationship building from the start.

They are more accepting of diversity and differences.

With such a large family, not everyone is going to be the same. Personalities, likes, dislikes, and habbits will be different from person to person. Large families become tolerant of differences, and open to diversity. This openness gives you a new take on life and makes you more open and adaptable to change.

15 thoughts on “Parents With Four Or More Kids Are Happier, According To Researchers”

  1. Depends on the family income, having 4 children with scanty incsome is a night mare, both for parents and children. Briefly put more children more problems
    Afganistan is a good classical example. Even in Europe countries like Italy and Ireland used to have big families back in 70’s and 80’s, and they were suffering, when the public attitude changed those countries became prosperous, right now Ireland is enjoying a healthy economy with a happy life style

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    • Where is your evidence that material wealth affects the happiness of families, large or otherwise? In fact, studies show the exact opposite, once you get beyond the bare essentials needed to survive.

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  2. I live in Ireland and have four children. I was born in the 70’s one of six children.
    My father worked and my mother stayed home. We lived in a nice house had everything we needed and all on my father’s wages.
    Now in Dublin 2 parents need to work just to afford basics in life.
    That is why they are having smaller families.
    The cost of living has gone so high people cannot afford to heat their homes.
    That is the Governments fault. Lets not pretend

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    • Housing is more expensive, sure. However, the access to an endless library of knowledge, ability to run an online company, connect with literally anyone in the world in less than a second, and ability to receive a world class education over the internet is available to everyone with a coffee shop near their house…. and it’s FREE. Our parents didn’t even have access to stuff we expect to automatically get with a cup of tea, and they eventually paid top dollar for each item (encyclopedias, landline, long distance calls, etc) that we pay a 30 buck wifi bill a month for or get for free at a public library. Alternatively, our parents in the past didn’t pay for four streaming services that cost 20 bucks a pop, or 24/7 air conditioning, or 70 dollar video games, an 80 dollar cell phone plan with endless data, a full wardrobe that gets replaced every three years, and they definitely had no use for a 100k masters degree because everyone else didn’t have one then. We save a lot of money for things they worked hard to acquire and spend a lot more on things they didn’t dream of.
      Ultimately, my philosophy is that money may be important, but you can’t talk to it, hug it, or watch it grow up. Maybe spending a little more time on your family rather than yourself and your bank account wouldn’t be the end of the world, maybe it’ll be the start.

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    • I totally agree with this article especially being a father of four myself and being the oldest out of five I can definitely agree with some of the things and I see some people saying they’ve met people who didn’t turn out so well because of how big they’re families are from jealousy one kid not getting attention and the other is etc etc but this guy did a 5 year study so even if that was the case thats an exceptions to the rule

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    • People in the 1800s were significantly poorer than people today, yet had large families. Hate to break it to you, but working class families ALWAYS had to have two parents working!

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  3. There is so much to question with such an article. Both my parents were from large families that had a lot of unhealthy competition and jealousy that persisted to adulthood. Four child families seem small and close in comparison. I can see it being a correlation that happier couples would have more children, but the attention and resources are stretched thin with more children. I have two children and enjoy that I can give each more personalized attention. They even get their only child days when I take one out for the day. It seems with some big families, there are favorites who grow up to be successful and least favorites who grow to have a lot of issues. I feel it’s less likely in smaller families. The happiness of the children doesn’t seem like a big consideration in this study. In this day and age where most children do activities and vacations that cost per person, how do the kids feel not experiencing them? Something as simple as eating out seems out of the question for some larger families. Most people can’t make enough to afford a high standard of living for a large family. I was an only child whose friend was always jealous of what my single parent could afford for me like perfumes and dance lessons. I know a few only child families and they seem happier than I am with the two kids I have. Less fighting, less chaos, and in my experience only children can be closer to a parent as an adult than a child of a large family who didn’t get that one to one attention so much.

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    • Well good thing for anecdotal evidence, as we all have a different story to tell. I see quite the opposite with people with one and two kids. I see them struggling with spoiled, bratty kids at the science center while I get complimented on how well mannered and considerate my 4 kids are. I know parents that complain about managing their lives with 1-2 kids and dealing with behavioral issues. They ask me for tips and advice, and simply can’t imagine how I do it! I laugh when I hear that, and I’ve heard it plenty. Well for one I don’t think it’s a good idea to have kids so far apart that one is in high school while the other is in elementary school. 1) The playdate concept is golden and I am so happy my kids are close in age. Four kids together can be very creative and come up with complex games that take up way more time and energy than any video game system. People with less children seem to do a lot of “time filling” and the children spend hours away from their parents and or home. Our house is always busy and interesting and plenty of time is spent right here. Also because we are a lively bunch we have extended family that come to visit us rather than vice versa. My kids get a lot of attention from the grandparents and other relatives. I like to say “when you visit us it’s definitely going to be worth the trip” 2) One on one time is not an issue for us at all. There are 365 days in a year, what would stop me from taking each kid out on a date? I thought that was a strange point to bring up! We do one on one trips with our kids all the time and have chats in the car while going out for a treat. My husband and I rotate and each kid knows they will get a turn and actually plan their dates in advance. Also fortunately for us we both work from home so that may be why it isn’t a big deal for us. 3) We can still afford extra curricular activities and things like catered parties for each child. We also go on vacations locally and internationally. I wouldn’t consider us to be wealthy by any means but thankfully we have two incomes. I have noticed that a lot of people assume I don’t work because I have 4 kids, not the case at all. I want to have a comfortable life too. 4) Location and cost of living are important to us. We bought a house in a small boring town (USA) instead of trying to make it in the big fun city. And that is another thing I see with smaller families. They complain about the cost of living because they continue to live in high cost of living areas! Kids don’t have to be as expensive as you make them out to be. The earth is spacious and you can move to obtain a better quality of life. But I think they and many single people are often too attached to the social life and amenities provided by a big city that they stick around no matter how much it costs. I’m bias of course, but I think people with larger families don’t have this issue as much. We can pack up and move our tribe and still feel content.

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  4. It depends on each family. I have 2 kids and my daughter is always asking why we can’t have any more. For me I always thought 2 is ok because I have a career to get on with. However my daughter helped nudge me into having another and I am so excited to have another half way now in my pregnancy. Deep down I did always want more but the pressures of society make us feel like we cannot. We didn’t have much growing up but we had each other and I am so glad I have a different outlook now. I have placed my career on hold – in fact it doesn’t mean much to me and having a healthy family does. I have realised that there is no need to live in a big house or own a nice car. Neither do I need anything expensive for my children. They are both so excited to have a little sibling and it doesn’t phase them that mums time will be split further.
    Most of my colleagues are going to IVF having left having kids so late. I think I have always had my priorities right that I had my kids quite early on in my career knowing it would put my career on hold but I did give my career importance and so as soon as I had 2 kids I decided no more. I’m so happy I changed my mind. Infact even a 4th kid lol

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  5. We thought we were already super happy with 2 boys, now our 3rd just passed his 1st anniversary and I can 1000% confirm that we are much happier family than even before, much fuller, liveliness, and laughters. Having said that, it is of course a lot more work and basically not much time to rest. However, it’s all worth it and we feel it gets easier as the older boys start to do their own things and also know how to take care of their baby brother.

    All my boys are active sports players involved in hockey, baseball, soccer, taekwondo, swimming, piano and etc.

    So you can imagine how busy we can get with sports tournaments and daily activities after school.

    In our household, we have a full time nanny, live with my elders who support us (help with one of kid’s ride), while I work at home. My wife spends most of her time with baby from evening but takes care of kids activities. Weekends we do it together and when my wife is tired, I just take over. Example, this weekend from Friday to Sunday, my 1st boy who is 6 and half had a 5 tournaments in hockey.

    We may have to decide soon where we want our kids to more focus but am more leaning towards hockey as they love the game. It is an amazing amount of discipline required and workout is second to none.

    Back to the point, it obviously requires a LOT and spouses really have to team up, with right support, to make it manageable and not burning out.

    While all of this, we manage to do mini dates at least once and time for body/foot massage.

    I do think finance constraint cannot be the reason to not have a bigger family however, as I know there are ways to make it work in whatever circumstances.

    We are looking forward to have 4th child actually.. I am beat tired this weekend but cannot stop to think about how fuller it would be with 4 children.

    Truly believe it is God’s blessing to have a big family. I can’t imagine living alone without spouse and further without having a full some family. How bored life would be…… I can’t fathom.

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  6. More children equals more pressure on the financial system, more pressure on housing and eventually more pressure on the environment. We are trying to reduce the number of farm animals (already drove many wild species to extinction), intensify food production, with easily predictable consequences. Yet, some think increasing human population is viable and sustainable. It just sets up the scene for more conflicts, more poverty, and more untimely deaths. God’s way to deal with human stupidity, I guess. Earth has a limited carrying capacity; more humans means less of everything else. Eventually we’ll have farms and humans. Most of Europe already looks like a city park, with limited capacity to increase food production, without extinguishing whatever is left as “wild” nature. We are happily exterminating rats [well, trying], when they do nothing more but behave like us; I gather they also have happy families until resources run out.

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    • Hi Hal, don’t worrie about people who want to have 3 or more children, we are just the minority on the big scenario. The majority of people just want one child and a big part of the newer generations prefer pets than kids for parenthood (I’m a millennial btw). There is no direct connection between the pression on the financial or housing system and family size. Even a single person or a no child couple needs a house, we are five people in just one happy house, so we are optimising space and resources. The secret to not run out of resources is simple, just consume less as an individual. I know many families with just one child and in 100% of them the only child has way more clothes, shoes and toys than our 3 kids together! We teach our kids the difference between “I want” and “I need”. The olders are 6 and 5yo and they already know how to shop with consciousness. Big families cannot waste money with unnecessary stuff so we are very conscious consumers, we don’t need to buy more stuff to fill an empty life, cause our life is full of joy! We can not also waste time commenting on others people life cause we are quite busy taking care of our big families, see how cool we are? If you are worried about running out of food, the place where food is more wasted everyday is at the restaurants, not at homes. Big families do the majority of meals at home so again, don’t worry about us we are not here to steal your food, your stuff or even your freedom to chose to have one, ten or not to have kids. Be happy! Cheers!

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  7. Who can say what the right number is? It’s a personal decision and is different for every family.

    There is a benefit to growing up with a sibling, but an only child can thrive better if there are more resources in the household to give that child a better life. Let’s not kid ourselves (no pun intended), but raising a family is costly, especially with more kids (I dont just mean groceries, but health insurance, college, etc). So that means either both parents need to work (this isn’t 1960 anymore) or one spouse needs to make more money (generally means putting longer hours at your desk which is ironic because you’re actually spending less time with your family as you hustle for higher W2 income). That just equates to more stress. Personally, I enjoy having one child and working significantly less than most people my age at their job).

    So I am trying to figure out why someone would have more than one child. The playmate idea only works for awhile (they do grow up and make friends when they’re in school and will not need as much attention from a sibling as they age). I guess if parents want a lot of grandchildren in the later years, that could be a reason. I personally don’t like the idea of retiring at age 60 or later working to support a larger family when I can retire early now and enjoy the time with my wife and daughter as much as possible.

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