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Having a Baby and Happiness Not Necessarily Related

Contrary to common belief, research suggests the time between having a baby and toddlerhood may not be a blissful experience for some women.

A recent study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health discovers that the baby and toddler phase may leave some moms dissatisfied.

In fact, satisfaction with life and one’s relationship can deteriorate for most new mothers. However, those who are satisfied with their relationship during pregnancy are most satisfied three years later.

This comes from a study of 60,000 Norwegian women with small children.

“In this study we have investigated two types of satisfaction – satisfaction with the partner and general satisfaction with life – both during pregnancy and later in infancy and toddlerhood,” said researcher Ragnhild Bang Nes.

Findings from the new study include:

  • General satisfaction with life increased in the first months after birth and peaked when the child reached 6 months old. After 6 months, satisfaction with life decreased and reached a low point when the child was 3 years old.
  • Satisfaction with the partner is of great importance for how mothers experience their life during this period, and satisfaction with the relationship during pregnancy is related to the mothers’ overall satisfaction 3.5 years later.
  • However, researchers found a general decline in both types of satisfaction over time during infancy and toddlerhood.

Even in late pregnancy there was a decrease in relationship satisfaction, which continued to deteriorate throughout the study period until it reached an absolute low point at the last study date 3 years after birth.

“Long term, satisfaction with the relationship affects satisfaction with life to a greater degree than vice versa,” said Bang Nes, who also stressed that the results suggest that the link between relationship satisfaction and overall satisfaction changes over time.

The study also found that satisfaction with the relationship appears to be particularly important for satisfaction with life during pregnancy and after birth. As the baby ages, during the toddler period, it appears that both forms of satisfaction influence each other more evenly.

“It is possible that the good welfare system in Norway contributes to ease the challenges during this phase. However, this has not been specifically studied here,” said Bang Nes.

“Most adults want to have children. Children are seen as a blessing, an enrichment and a central source of meaning, love and belonging. ”

Bang Nes said the expectation then would be that having a child fulfills a desire and satisfies a fundamental need, which in turn would lead to happiness and satisfaction.

“However, studies show that this is not always the case,” he said. “This is often called the ‘paradox of parental life.’”

Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Having a Baby and Happiness Not Necessarily Related

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Having a Baby and Happiness Not Necessarily Related. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Jan 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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