This week The New Zealand Herald re-printed a rather depressing article which originally appeared in The Washington Post.  In the article, Matthew D. Johnson, a professor of psychology and director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at Binghamton University, discusses research which apparently conclusively shows that having children is bad for your marriage:

For around 30 years, researchers have studied how having children affects a marriage, and the results are conclusive: The relationship between spouses suffers once kids come along. Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of the decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples. In the event that a pregnancy is unplanned, the parents experience even greater negative impacts on their relationship.

You can read the full article yourself, but he goes on to link his research to decreasing fertility rates around the world:

These downsides to having children may partly explain why more and more women in the United States and around the world are choosing not to procreate. According to the U.S. Census, the percent of childless American women (ages 15-44) increased a staggering amount in just two generations: from 35 percent in 1976 to 47 percent in 2010.

His long article gives only one ray of light at the end for those of us ‘burdened’ with children:

Despite the dismal picture of motherhood painted by researchers like me (sorry, Mom), most mothers (and fathers) rate parenting as their greatest joy. Much like childbirth, where nearly all mothers believe the pain and suffering was worth it, most mothers believe the rewards of watching their children grow up are worth the cost to their romantic relationships.

What interested me most about the article was not the research it presented, but the comments by my fellow New Zealanders who obviously don’t subscribe to this line of thinking that followed. They were almost all quite outraged.  Here is a sample:

Unadulerated rot from start to finish. Children are the joy, the natural outcome and intention of a proper marriage. The challenge of bringing up children is met well by decent reasonably educated people and the rewards for doing so are hard to beat. 

 These modern connivances, acceptance of unwed mothers, gay “marriages” and the associated degradation of marriage and family values is very much part and parcel of todays social problems. 

 We have become more undisciplined, free and easy, lacking moral fiber, and it is showing in many ways. Children are the incentive to hold families together and build a decent caring society. If that is not so then it’s time to do something about it.  – Duediligence – Glen Eden – 10:26 AM Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Wow such an uplifting and positive article. presumably this author does not have a good family life. with 2 boys our happiness has plummeted not being able to discuss Donald Trump as I ask if my infants nappy looks full.. Such a humdrum existence now. – Patrick – 10:23 AM Tuesday, 10 May 2016

My husband and baby both make me feel a lot better than reading this article just did. – Kristy – 10:23 AM Tuesday, 10 May 2016

I was relieved to read the last paragraph. Prior to that it looked like the selfish and self-centred were going to win the debate. Lots of people marry the wrong person or have unplanned children. Both good reasons to feel unhappy. However let’s look at this from the point of view of people who made good decisions about their life partner and parenting, for a change. Having children is the icing on the cake. How can people possibly say about little children, I would be happier without them?

Children like most things, are what you make of them. If you’re a good parent you’ll generally have good fun raising your children. I know the world is over-populated and that seems to be the justification for much of this angst. But honestly, how can you be so wrapped up in yourself and your other half that you think children will spoil it?  – – 10:25 AM Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Ha! So we have immature adults wanting to be teenagers again.
Grow up, you are providing the world with the next generation as it has always been. For goodness sake! – Bill – 10:25 AM Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Judging by the comments (and people generally feel quite strongly to bother writing one), media articles and politicians are not always representative of what families really think and feel.  The article starts with the wrong premise by equating pleasure with a deeper satisfaction.  Who would deny that bringing up a child is slightly harder than sipping latte in a cafe? The choice to bring up children can bring about very real suffering and heartache.  So can falling in love.  I wouldn’t say that the sipping lattes allows one to die with the deeper satisfaction of a life well lived though.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...