In a major study, British sociologists analyzed data from the Millennium Cohort Study on 12,877 children aged seven in 2008 and found no significant difference in happiness in different family arrangements.
In the new study, whether the children lived with two biological parents, a step-parent and biological parent, or in a single parent family, made no difference to how they rated their happiness — 64 percent said they were happy “sometimes or never,” and 36 percent said they were “happy all the time.”
Even when the researchers statistically removed the effects of other factors such as parental social class so that the effects of family type were isolated, the results showed no significant differences.
Jenny Chanfreau, M.Sc., lead researcher, said relationships with parents and other children were strongly linked with how likely the seven-year-olds were to be happy.
For instance, factors such as getting on well with siblings and not being bullied at school were associated with being happy all the time.
Chanfreau said they found a similar result when analyzing another set of survey data on 2,679 children aged 11 to 15 in the UK — this also showed no significant statistical difference in the level of wellbeing among children in the three types of family when the effects of family type were studied in isolation.
“We found that the family type had no significant effect on the happiness of the seven-year-olds or the 11- to 15-year-olds,” said Chanfreau. “It’s the quality of the relationships in the home that matters — not the family composition.
“Getting on well with siblings, having fun with the family at weekends, and having a parent who reported rarely or never shouting when the child was naughty, were all linked with a higher likelihood of being happy all the time among seven-year olds.
“Pupil relations at school are also important — being bullied at school or being ‘horrible’ to others was strongly associated with lower happiness in the seven-year-olds, for instance.”
Source: British Sociological Association