Does Having Kids Make You Happy?

1Research has found that having children is terrible for quality of life—but the truth about what parenthood means for happiness is a lot more complicated.

Few choices are more important than whether to have children, and psychologists and other social scientists have worked to figure out what having kids means for happiness. Some of the most prominent scholars in the field have argued that if you want to be happy, it’s best to be childless. Others have pushed back, pointing out that a lot depends on who you are and where you live. But a bigger question is also at play: What if the rewards of having children are different from, and deeper than, happiness?

The early research is decisive: Having kids is bad for quality of life. In one study, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues asked about 900 employed women to report, at the end of each day, every one of their activities and how happy they were when they did them. They recalled being with their children as less enjoyable than many other activities, such as watching TV, shopping, or preparing food.

Other studies find that when a child is born, parents experience a decrease in happiness that doesn’t go away for a long time, in addition to a drop in marital satisfaction that doesn’t usually recover until the children leave the house. As the Harvard professor Dan Gilbert puts it, “The only symptom of empty nest syndrome is nonstop smiling.”

After all, having children, particularly when they are young, involves financial struggle, sleep deprivation, and stress. For mothers, there is also in many cases the physical strain of pregnancy and breastfeeding. And children can turn a cheerful and loving romantic partnership into a zero-sum battle over who gets to sleep and work and who doesn’t.

As the Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior notes in her book, All Joy and No Fun, children provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments—“more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Someone who doesn’t understand this is welcome to spend a full day with an angry 2-year-old (or a sullen 15-year-old); they’ll find out what she means soon enough.

Read: It isn’t the kids. It’s the cost of raising them.

Children make some happy and others miserable; the rest fall somewhere in between—it depends, among other factors, on how old you are, whether you are a mother or a father, and where you live. But a deep puzzle remains: Many people would have had happier lives and marriages had they chosen not to have kids—yet they still describe parenthood as the “best thing they’ve ever done.” Why don’t we regret having children more?

One possibility is a phenomenon called memory distortion. When we think about our past experiences, we tend to remember the peaks and forget the mundane awfulness in between. Senior frames it like this: “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes—or napping, or shopping, or answering emails—to spending time with our kids … But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one—and nothing—provides us with so much joy as our children.

It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.” These are plausible-enough ideas, and I don’t reject them. But other theories about why people don’t regret parenthood actually have nothing to do with happiness—at least not in a simple sense.

One involves attachment. Most parents love their children, and it would seem terrible to admit that you would be better off if someone you loved didn’t exist. More than that, you genuinely prefer a world with your kids in it. This can put parents in the interesting predicament of desiring a state that doesn’t make them as happy as the alternative. In his book Midlife, the MIT professor Kieran Setiya expands on this point.

Modifying an example from the philosopher Derek Parfit, he asks readers to imagine a situation in which, if you and your partner were to conceive a child before a certain time, the child would have a serious, though not fatal, medical problem, such as chronic joint pain. If you wait, the child will be healthy. For whatever reason, you choose not to wait. You love your child and, though he suffers, he is happy to be alive. Do you regret your decision?

Read: How adult children affect their mother’s happiness

That’s a complicated question. Of course it would have been easier to have a kid without this condition. But if you’d waited, you’d have a different child, and this baby (then boy, then man) whom you love wouldn’t exist. It was a mistake, yes, but perhaps a mistake that you don’t regret. The attachment we have to an individual can supersede an overall decrease in our quality of life, and so the love we usually have toward our children means that our choice to bring them into existence has value above and beyond whatever effect they have on our happiness.

This relates to a second point, which is that there’s more to life than happiness. When I say that raising my sons is the best thing I’ve ever done, I’m not saying that they gave me pleasure in any simple day-to-day sense, and I’m not saying that they were good for my marriage. I’m talking about something deeper, having to do with satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. It’s not just me.

When you ask people about their life’s meaning and purpose, parents say that their lives have more meaning than those of nonparents. A study by the social psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that the more time people spent taking care of children, the more meaningful they said their life was—even though they reported that their life was no happier.

Raising children, then, has an uncertain connection to pleasure but may connect to other aspects of a life well lived, satisfying our hunger for attachment, and for meaning and purpose. The writer Zadie Smith puts it better than I ever could, describing having a child as a “strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.” Smith, echoing the thoughts of everyone else who has seriously considered these issues, points out the risk of close attachments:

“Isn’t it bad enough that the beloved, with whom you have experienced genuine joy, will eventually be lost to you? Why add to this nightmare the child, whose loss, if it ever happened, would mean nothing less than your total annihilation?” But this annihilation reflects the extraordinary value of such attachments; as the author Julian Barnes writes of grief, quoting a friend, “It hurts just as much as it is worth.”

By Paul Bloom

Source: Does Having Kids Make You Happy? – The Atlantic

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More Contents:

. “A review of the relationship among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement” (PDF). Educational Psychology Review. 17

 “Parenting Style as a Moderator of Associations Between Maternal Disciplinary Strategies and Child Well-Being”

“The Influence of Parenting Style on Academic Achievement and Career Path”Day, Nicholas (10 April 2013). “Parental ethnotheories and how parents in America differ from parents everywhere else”. Slate. Retrieved 19 April 2013.[verification needed]

“The Terrible Twos Explained – Safe Kids (UK)”Kenneth R. Ginsburg. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds” (PDF). American Academy of Pediatrics. Archived from the origina

Italy’s Supercharged Bond Market Is All About Faith in The ECB

One of Europe’s riskiest bond bets is a sign of how much investors are confident in the central bank’s ability to recover from the pandemic smoothly.

Italian benchmark yields are near a six-month low and the government is so short of liquidity that it canceled last week’s loan auction. With the number of outstanding positions in bond futures since March, the market is beginning to look like a crowded trade.

This is the latest evidence of the bullish momentum that is prevailing across European markets. Italy is one of the region’s most indebted nations, yet has seen unprecedented stimulus from the European Central Bank to dent lending costs that are reducing volatility and driving investors into the highest-yielding corners of the market. .

“The PEPP expansion could be important in that regard,” said Christoph Rieger, head of fixed-rate strategy at Commerzbank AG, referring to the ECB’s pandemic bond-buying program, which is due to end in March, but which many investors Now the bet will go on for a long time.

Against this background, Rieger expects Italy’s 10-year yield premium to fall to 75 basis points from its German counterpart – the security sector paradigm – currently around 100 basis points.

Meanwhile, Italian stocks are on a tear after a blockbuster earnings season in Europe, and the ECB recently changed its forward guidance to signal a longer period of ultra-lax policy, adding fuel to the rally.

Last week, the number of outstanding Italian 10-year bond futures contracts rose nearly 60,000 to more than 360,000. The increase as the underlying securities increased, indicating that investors are adding rather than consolidating their positions.

Giles Gail, still head of European rates strategy at NatWest Markets Plc, is starting to consider what might happen if everyone rushes to exit at the same time.

“It will be perverse, but possible in this market,” he said. For now, he also expects the Italian-German bond to expand by 75 basis points in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Rohan Khanna, a strategist at UBS AG, points to the risk of Snap elections, which he says are “highly likely” in the first quarter of 2022, if Mario Draghi decides to run for president, Although the probability of that is low. But for now, it all seems like a distant possibility.

On Wednesday, Italy paid less than the ECB’s own deposit rate to borrow for the first time in 12 months. This is an anomaly that highlights the scale of distortion in the region’s currency markets as well as the bullish trend of traders.

“An ECB that is in volume-control mode, prolonging its QE program with a clear commitment to financial stability, is clearly supportive of sovereign spreads,” Gayle said.

The U.S. Debt-Ceiling Farce Is a Headache Investors Could Do Without

The latest twists in the seemingly endless saga of the U.S. debt ceiling underscore once again how strange the whole thing is.

The very existence of the debt ceiling is utterly superfluous. Every couple of years members of Congress have to vote to allow borrowing to fund measures that they’ve already approved through individual spending bills. Its main function is political: Whichever party isn’t in power at the time uses it to try to either extract something from, or embarrass, the other side.

On top of that, the limit isn’t really the limit. By invoking the vague catchall of “extraordinary measures,” Uncle Sam can keep on borrowing even after it’s hit the cap—or when the limit has been reinstated following a suspension, as was the case at the end of last month. Given that the alternative is either what’s known as a technical default or a seizing up of everyday government spending, that’s a good thing, even if you’re a fiscal hawk, which is an endangered species these days.

Just because something is mainly theatrical, though, that doesn’t mean it can’t have an impact. This month marks the 10th anniversary of S&P’s decision to strip America of its AAA credit rating, a move that followed one of many bruising Congressional fights over the debt limit. The move by the ratings agency back then sent a shiver through markets and caused a lot of consternation from Wall Street to Washington. But the U.S. has continued to borrow cheaply—indeed, even more cheaply than before.

Right now, the ceiling is at about $28.4 trillion, and the U.S. Treasury’s fancy footwork on accounting should keep U.S. borrowing authority officially intact for a little while. That should allow lawmakers to stitch together enough votes for either an increase or another suspension in the coming months. But what if they don’t?

One subplot of the drama helps put some perspective on this question. With the overall cap for debt back in force as of the start of August, the Treasury has been forced to slash its cash pile—essentially the balance of the government’s main checking account—to around the same level it occupied before the last ceiling suspension. The legislation that governs the ceiling includes a measure to hold things in check; without it, there’d be little to restrain the government from simply issuing tons of debt, while the now-lapsed suspension was still in place, in order to be able to spend the money later.

For quite a long time, some market observers have acted on the assumption that this time around, the cash pile would end up somewhere in the vicinity of $130 billion. In May, though, the Treasury itself said its borrowing plans were premised on the pile amounting to around $450 billion.

Ultimately, the Treasury got down to within around $10 billion of that, which the market appears to accept as close enough. Would it have made much of a difference if they were off by $50 billion or $100 billion—or $500 billion? Would there be any real penalty beyond a bit of political scoring in the never-ending ceiling tussle?

This isn’t a moot point. In its quest to get the cash balance down, the Treasury has affected markets. It has been dialing back its borrowing in T-bills—its shortest-maturity securities—and that, in turn, has been distorting money markets and complicating the Federal Reserve’s management of interest rates.

The issue is that when there’s a shortage of T-bills, they become more expensive, and the yield they offer falls. And because the kinds of people who buy T-bills also invest in a range of other money market instruments, the rates on those come under pressure, too.

That’s not necessarily a concern until it starts pushing the rates on which the Federal Reserve focuses out of its target band. At that point, the Fed needs to pull some other levers. Such a response carries costs while continuing the cycle of distortion.

A further example: On occasion, the imminent approach of a so-called technical default by the world’s largest debtor nation has prompted odd moves in various T-bills as those securities that are most at risk of non-payment become market pariahs. While this is most acutely a problem for investors in those individual issues, it throws out of kilter a market that helps benchmark a huge swath of the world’s borrowing—both government and private.

Nobody can honestly pretend that the ceiling is a mechanism to rein in debt. It causes distortions, and it wastes a lot of time and energy that the denizens of Washington could devote to ensuring the money being borrowed is spent effectively and productively. That’s not to say that debt and deficits don’t matter. But the way the U.S. thinks and legislates on the topic needs to change. —With Alex Harris

By: Benjamin Purvis

Source: The U.S. Debt-Ceiling Farce Is a Headache Investors Could Do Without – Bloomberg

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