Dr. Bronwyn Harman, lecturer at Edith Cowan University School of Psychology and Social Science, has found that parents with four or more children showed the best ratings in resilience, social support, and self-esteem.
Dr. Harman said it could have something to do with social support within the family and the fact that the kids are never bored, have someone to play with, and they have more independence at an earlier age.
Emma Wynne of ABC Perth writes that Harman’s research revealed that most large families are planned. Parents reported that having a larger family had some disadvantages, such as the expense and scheduling pressure, but they added that the joy their children gave them more than balanced them out.
Parents who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) ranked second in life-satisfaction scores by just 0.25%. The high life-satisfaction rating for those in the LGBTQ community could be based on the effort it took to have children, like using IVF, surrogacy, or adoption, and these parents are more likely to see their children as something they thought impossible. The stigma associated with being a same-sex parent is lessening, which adds to the happiness of the parents and their families.
Even though Dr. Harman’s research found that family type affected parents’ life-satisfaction, it did not seem to make a difference in a child’s upbringing.
“It’s not the family make-up that makes a difference to how a child is parented, it is the family processes,” Dr Harman said. “What is important for kids are things like consistency, boundaries and [to] know that they are loved, no matter what.”
Harman shares the story of the Bonell family of Toowoomba, Queensland with Australia’s 9News. Jenni Bonell has 16 children between the ages of one and 25, and said that she would be happy to have even more.
“I’ve just found over the years that I have truly loved having all these babies and watching them grow,” Mrs Bonell told ABC 702 Perth.
She says though life can be chaotic and the weekly food bill can be as much as $700, the upside is that the older kids do most of the cooking. She described her Sunday nights when all her children, along with her mother, come for “a roast dinner.”
“We have this great big mass of people and we just laugh and tell jokes and it is so much fun.”
The Australian scientist spent five years interviewing 950 parents, writes Angela Tague of Yahoo Parenting.
“What surprised me the most, I think, was that parents who identify as LGBT, as well as mothers of large families, were the most satisfied with life,” Harman said.
Harman added that before she began research, she thought families with several children would be less happy because of the noise and constant needs. She also believed that LGBTQ families would be less content because of the discrimination they faced outside their homes.
When asked which type of parents were least happy, she answered that it was single dads.
“There is this perception that mothers are the real parents and fathers just sort of help,” Harman told the Sydney Morning Herald. “There is still no understanding in 2015 that fathers are co-parents that have just as much responsibility for kids.”