Britain’s happiest couples are married, but for less than
five years, and childless. That’s what the Guardian newspaper headlined from a
report released last week — the first results from a 49 million pound research
project called Understanding Society.

This bit from the Guardian
contains my favourite factoids, however:

Of the young, 60% are “completely satisfied” with their family
situation and 70% are very satisfied with their lives. The survey’s authors
observe: “Compared with their peers in other countries, children in the UK
rank extremely low on life satisfaction.” Gundi Knies, who carried out the
research, insists the two sets of findings are not contradictory.

But her research also concludes that neither material wealth nor poverty
have a bearing on children’s life satisfaction.

Not living with both natural parents has a greater negative impact on a
young person’s life satisfaction than their material situation. But children
are more satisfied with their lives the fewer other children live in their

In my country (New Zealand) child welfare advocates are
always banging on about child poverty, but this research, which includes
interviews with 2163 children aged 10 to 15, shows that living with both your
natural parents is more important than income to a child’s happiness.

Not that we shouldn’t care about poverty, but sole parenting
is itself a major cause of poverty. Sadly, this research shows that having more
than four children also tends to put you in the poorhouse, British style.

Interestingly, income is not decisive in marital happiness
either, but unemployment tends to make men rather unhappy — especially men in the middle to lower ranks of society.

Marriages, as we already know, are happier than cohabiting set-ups.

As for marital happiness declining with the arrival of children, and age — it depends a bit on what you mean by happiness. Other research shows that the husband’s involvement in domestic life and religion are among factors that increase a couple’s happiness. We await more information from the British research; after all, it has only been running for two years.

You can read more here.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet