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You Be the Judge: Do Kids Ruin Lives?

Mother holding up baby girl (3-6 months) smiling
Photograph by Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Some men and women dream of having kids. Then there are those who are shunned for simply not factoring children into their life plan. But here's the thing, for those folks: If they did end up having kids, they could resent it—then again, they could love being parents. That's kind of the point of a new and interesting study about whether enhance or ruin parents' lives. Simply put, it really just depends.

Not every woman out there feels that pull to procreate and not every man longs to change diapers (scratch that—no one loves that part of the job). The study's co-authors (from Stony Brook University and Princeton University) examined data and controlled for as many variables as possible so that they could ultimately isolate the effects of having children.

At first glance, it seemed as though parents in a certain age group had higher overall life satisfaction compared to their peers without children. But when the researchers went back with their controls for wealth, health and other factors, the results took a different shape: Both groups of adults—with or without children—reported a similar level of satisfaction. But, and this is the important part, "No matter what the controls, children are always associated with both more positive and more negative emotions," the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, noted. Is it just us, or did you only see "negative" in that sentence, too?

Of course children enhance our lives—some might even say they give our lives meaning—but it's all about choice. If you don't think you would find happiness in being a parent, it might not be for you. One of the study's co-authors broke it down into even simpler terms: "A lot of people start out thinking that having children must make [them]. After all, the species needs it to continue. But there is no reason to think that people who decide to have children are any happier than people who decide not to have children. It's like apples and oranges, and I wouldn't think that people who like apples are any happier than people who like oranges."

While they may not ruin your life, children do provide parents with a roller-coaster ride of emotions and experiences (we're suckers for those highs and lows!). The moral of the story? Just make sure you want to get on!

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