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Presumably those who plan to have children believe the huge sacrifice to their time and energy will make them happy. However, some argue that this belief is an illusion.
Optimism is an attitude where a person believes things will generally turn out well, often with the assumption that the mindset is self-fulfilling. In contrast, realists (often viewed by optimists as pessimists) tend to believe that the optimists' wishful thinking leads to broken expectations and bad consequences.
Antidepressants are chemicals that work by affecting either the release or reuptake of neurotransmitters, natural chemicals in the brain used to regulate core functions such as emotion. Roughly 10% of Americans are prescribed antidepressants. Skeptics have suggested that many antidepressants are in some cases no more effective than placebos.
Many philosophers and psychologists embrace self-knowledge as a life quest, recommending its benefits to others. In popular culture, it is epitomized by Dr Phil's famous self-help catch phrase: "Get Real!". However, the belief that lying to ourselves is detrimental to our well being is far from ubiquitous. In fact, some experts believe that self-deception is necessary for a healthy mind.
As social creatures, our happiness may be dependent on our status. If this is the case, it may help explain why the pursuit of money for the average person at best only keeps their happiness level constant.
Once basic needs are met, it is not clear whether absolute wealth causes or is even correlated with happiness. There are several possible explanations for this, including the importance of relative over absolute wealth in western countries, the competitive work required to sustain that wealth, and the emptiness in pursuing material interests. In addition, the complicated nature of happiness itself complicates the answer to the question.
Robin Hanson
A meta-analysis of SSRI anti-depressant medication, published in Feb '08, found almost no effect. ... And [it] doesn't take any account of leaky placebo effects, whereby drug side-effects convince people they have the real drug. Given their severe side-effects, I'm not sure I'd advise anti-depressants _even when_ other treatments have been ineffective.
Time Magazine
Researchers have known for some time that parents with minors who live at home report feeling calm significantly less often than than people who don't live with young children. Parents are also angrier and more depressed than nonparents — and each additional child makes them even angrier. Couples who choose not to have kids also have better, more satisfying marriages than couples who have kids.
Erika Lawrence
In sum, parenthood hastens marital decline—even among relatively satisfied couples who select themselves into this transition—but planning status and prepregnancy marital satisfaction generally protect marriages from these declines.
Ayn Rand
An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality, beyond the fact that something makes you feel something. Without a ruthlessly honest commitment to introspection—to the conceptual identification of your inner states—you will not discover what you feel, what arouses the feeling, and whether your feeling is an appropriate response to the facts of reality, or a mistaken response, or a vicious illusion produced by years of self-deception . . . .
Kate Kellaway
We should try and lift the happiness pressure as parents. Happiness does not come when it is called. The best times – the happiest – I have ever had with my children are, almost always, the least planned. I remember a particularly wretched trip to the London Aquarium that was supposed to be special and an ordinary bathtime that was mysteriously joyful. But, in the end, parenting is not about happiness, it is about love – not the same thing at all.
Sarah Wildman
I was never the type that fully imagined life with kids. And yet the moment mine arrived I realized I'd never known love like this before -- passionate, bowled-over, take-your-breath-away love that scares the heck out of me pretty much daily. ... Having a kid is a little like being an expat in the world -- the highs are that much higher, the lows that much lower, the intensity like nothing else. Joy and pain; tears and laughter; everything that much sharper than it was before.
Jessica Alba
There was nothing else but my career before. I was completely defined by it. Now I have my family, which is more fulfilling. I’ve always wanted a big family.
Albert Mohler
...the Bible doesn’t seem overly concerned with human happiness. One reason for this is surely that happiness is just too passing as a perception... In a fallen world, the wrong things will make us happy or unhappy. Add to this the fact that we seem to be largely incompetent at making ourselves happy, or even at knowing what will make us happy. ... We must ... understand family life as a crucible for holiness, not an experiment in happiness.

New Comments

0 Points       Side Effect       08 May 2015     Does money make you happy? (specifically: absolute spending power) General Comment

0 Points       Nashhinton       21 Apr 2013     Does relative wealth make us happier than absolute wealth? Agree
Studies tend to show that relative wealth leads to excessive happiness because it behaves like a point system. That's why we shouldn't simply redistribute wealth through taxation to establish unwarranted egalitarianism, but we should rather provide basic services and opportunities to citizens to increase their motivations to succeed. We need universal college education, job training, universal healthcare (healthy citizens are happy) etc., or any other type of mechanism to encourage citizens to work to eventually accumulate wealth on their own and stimulate the economy. We must ensure that citizens can easily move to the top of the ladder without obstacles, fairly, and without wide disparities of difficulty levels. It may lead to happiness, but it's immoral to accumulate and safeguard vast quantities of wealth in a vault somewhere without using it to stimulate future economic growth. I'm an ethical socialist who promotes a free competitive market and a large work ethic.

0 Points       Nashhinton       23 Jan 2013     Is optimism rational? Mostly Agree
Optimism increases mental health and decreases anxiety. In this sense, it can augment rational thinking especially if someone is taking a test during class. However in certain scenarios, "optimism bias", as it is so called, can deceive someone to see life through rose colored glasses or to analyze possible events with sheer delusional anticipation.

0 Points       2Cent       23 Jan 2012     Do children make you happy? General Comment
Perhaps it does for women, but not for men.

"Moms report getting more happiness from their children whereas fathers ranked kids no higher than their career.

Women in relationships got a happiness boost after having children. Men only seemed to derive well-being from the relationship."

Source is here.

1 Point       TZX       16 Feb 2011     Does relative wealth make us happier than absolute wealth? Mostly Agree
Quite probably. Humans show an amazing capability for hammering down the nail that sticks out.

1 Point       TZX       16 Feb 2011     Is optimism rational? Mostly Disagree
Optimism is dangerous. Pessimism is dangerous. Anything other than pure, unadulterated realism is a dangerous distortion of reality.

0 Points       blacktrance       11 Feb 2011     Is optimism rational? Neutral
It depends on who you are. Mostly, realism is the best.

0 Points       blacktrance       10 Feb 2011     Does money make you happy? (specifically: absolute spending power) Mostly Agree
Money can't make you happy, but it can remove sources of unhappiness, which will make you better off on average.

1 Point       blacktrance       10 Feb 2011     Is self-deception a fault? Agree
If you avoid reality, it will eventually hit you hard.

1 Point       Glenn F       02 Nov 2010     Do children make you happy? Neutral
Sometimes yes, they do. Sometimes no, they don't.

Happiness is often the result of focused attention on something difficult, but achievable. In this way, children might lead to happiness, as they fit the bill. But I wouldn't ever agree that by default children lead to happiness. For many, it's just the opposite. The answer to this question all depends on the context of parties involved.

Expert in the psychology of "flow" (related to the human perception of "happiness" or "creativity"), Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is a solid reference resource. http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j21/csiksz.asp

1 Point       Tina Peters       14 Sep 2010     Do children make you happy? General Comment
I think that whether or not children can "contribute to your happiness" can be influenced by the circumstances concerning how one came to be a parent. Parenthood was deliberately forced on me when I was only 16 yrs. old. He was an already married man who was around five years my senior.

For remaining unwed after the birth of my daughter, I attempted to parent her while still under my own mother's roof. We were poor people..that has not changed. Even so, my child was taken care of there as if she'd been a sibling of mine. In fact, my parenting was all but completely usurped by my, now deceased, mother and a, also deceased, older sister who lived in the household at the time.

The married man had started me to drinking liquor prior to his taking control of my body. So, by the time I was 19, I qualified as a full blown alcoholic.....though my claiming the disease was still a few years away. I didn't realize it at the time, but my significance as a family member had been overshadowed by the birth of my beautiful child. She was the angel in our midst and I was, it seemed, now just some presence they only tolerated.

When I moved out of my mother's house, I left my child there because I felt it was the best place for her. For, not only was I drinking, but I had begun to live an alternative lifestyle. As I watched the 8 yr. old standing there with tears running down her face, asking me where I was going, I had no answer for her. I only said that I could no longer live there; that her grandmother didn't want me there.

My daughter is 39 yrs. old now and, though I had no other children, I am grateful I had her. Yet, in spite of this being the case with me, there have not been very many occasions during these last 39 yrs. where I really felt that we connected as mother and daughter. The reason for this, I believe, is that, for my mother and sister's interference and my leaving her there in that house to be raised by them, we never really bonded. Nevertheless, when she's not exercising her genetically flawed temperament, I feel content with our relationship.

As a grandmother, I have experienced much happiness! My grandchildrens' births were estatic moments for me and I endeavored to be the best grandma that anyone could possibly want. But now, with one being 22 yrs. old and the other turning 14 today, they seem to have little use for me anymore. So I just attend my church services on Sunday and be the sober God fearing christian woman that I have been for many years now. And when they have use for me, I am there for them, nonetheless.

So.....do children make you happy? Well, it depends on who you ask and where they're coming from. However, from a spiritual standpoint, I perceive them to be the greatest blessing God can bestow on anyone...whatever their circumstances. The problem is, in far too many situations they are not receiving the protection and sound minded guidance they deserve. And, for this, both they and all of society suffers in various occurrences.

0 Points       Benja       27 May 2010     Is optimism rational? General Comment
I've thought about the idea that we have many biases that pull us in different directions, and that our behavior is a function of the aggregate of all of them. If so, then perhaps overcoming a particular bias could have a net negative effect of upsetting that balance (even if overcoming that bias helped us perform better in some domains). I'd be curious if anyone has pointers to research on that. One of my favorite posts on Less Wrong here alluded to this idea, with some research that defended motivated cognition and confirmation bias.

New Editorial Comments

0 Points       kwhipke1       19 Mar 2011     Do children make you happy? Editorial Comment
A better way to phrase this might be "do children, on average, make you happier"

0 Points       Benja       27 May 2010     Does relative wealth make us happier than absolute wealth? Editorial Comment
I wonder whether I should reword the question with a qualification so as to exclude abject poverty? What I think is interesting about this question (correct me if I'm wrong) is whether the benefit of economic growth has leveled out for rich countries.

Happiness Question Index

Are antidepressants overprescribed?
Do children make you happy?
Is self-deception a fault?
Does money make you happy? (specifically: absolute spending power)
Does relative wealth make us happier than absolute wealth?
Is optimism rational?
Can modest marijuana use cause depression?