Parents with Baby

As all parents quickly learn, having a newborn can really throw you for a loop—especially the first time around. But new research by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Germany shows that many parents' happiness takes a significant hit in that first year—and that can determine whether they have another child, even years later.

The study, which was published in the journal Demography, compared self-reports from 2,000 men and women who participated in the annual German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) and found that when parents' well-being and happiness markedly decreased, they were less likely to have a second child. And this pattern was especially common for couples who are older and well-educated.

During their first year of parenthood, first-time parents reported an average decrease of 1.4 units on the happiness scale compared to the two years prior to their child's birth. The authors noted that this is a substantial decrease—divorce (minus 0.6 units), unemployment (minus 1 unit), and the death of a partner (minus 1 unit) were all shown to have less of an impact.

Only 58 out of 100 couples who reported being less happy by three or more units had a second child within 10 years. On the other hand, 66 out of 100 parents who did not feel a decrease in well-being had another baby.

But after the initial whirlwind of being a first-time parent dissipates, things do look up. "On the whole, and in the long run, despite the unhappiness after the first birth of a baby, having up to two children rather increases overall happiness in life," said Mikko Myrskylä, director of MPIDR, in a press release.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Family with baby via Shutterstock