One of the consequences of COVID-19 shutdowns was taking work and school into the home. This meant that kids and parents were no longer separating for these activities but functioning in the same environment. Early 2000s studies have consistently shown that parents are less satisfied with life than single people. However, a recent study highlighted in a Deseret News article shows the correlation between happiness and parenthood has changed. 

According to the article titled “Perspective: The group that’s happiest in the pandemic may surprise you” by Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang, parents report greater life purpose, less loneliness and increased levels of happiness than childless participants in the same survey. 

The Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution surveyed for levels of happiness in adults ages 18–55 between May and June of 2021. Statistics drawn from this YouGov survey on parental happiness during the pandemic show that 82% of parent participants reported their lives as very or pretty happy, whereas only 68% of non-parent participants reported the same level of happiness. 

In another category surveying for the meaningfulness of life, 83% of parents reported they feel their lives have meaning some, most or all of the time while 75% of non-parents reported their lives had just as much meaning. Non-parents also reported 14% more loneliness than parent participants.  

These statistics specifically account for levels of happiness experienced during the pandemic which has undoubtedly impacted all demographics. In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Marriage and Family Studies Professor Timothy Rarick explained this shift in happiness seen during pandemic months. 

“So, I think what you’re seeing in the pandemic and what these data are showing is that spouses are reconnecting with each other and parent and children are reconnecting with each other,” Rarick said. “Families are reconnecting and building that bond up where, especially in Western culture as Americans, we’re pulled in so many different directions that those connections start to atrophy.”   

Rarick asserted that the greater amount of time the pandemic afforded to parents to spend with their children influenced the study statistics. Time helps children feel loved and interactions with their children help parents to become much more than managers of the home.  

As a professor, Rarick has often taught his students that “the family is never stronger than the marriage.” The statistics support this statement. In the same YouGov survey, chart statistics show a positive correlation between happiness reporting of married and unmarried parents where married parents are happier.  

“Instability of relationship is actually more damaging to children than instability of living arrangement…Assuming [abuse] is not an issue, children do better when they can keep a strong connection with both parents. So, that’s why the married parents will do better, and the children will do better,” Rarick said. 

He qualified this statement by saying that children of unmarried parents still have great opportunity to succeed and be happy, but statistically children with stronger parental connections are more stable.  

Rarick also asserted that happiness does not rely on relationship status. Single people, married people and unmarried people can all experience varying levels of happiness. 

“I’ve met far too many students who are more in love with the idea of marriage than they are with the person that they’re marrying, and they probably have never even differentiated those because they’re opening on a false premise which is, ‘I will be happy when I’m married.’ It’s not your spouse’s job to make you happy. They can make you happier, but joy is a choice. We have to figure out ‘What are the principles that govern joy?’ and I can follow that, single or married,” he said.