The Parenting/Relationship/Happiness Correlation Survey Results


Last fall I wrote a post called The Parenting/Relationship/Happiness Correlation, mostly discussing.. well.. the correlation between parenting, relational health, and personal happiness. I took some really interesting (and outrageous) quotes and stats about how parents feel. Some of you were shocked, some of you totally understood, and many of you wanted to keep the conversation going. So I took a very personal survey where people could answer anonymously.

You’ve been waiting for the results. I had no idea how extensive this project would become, but we’ve pressed on, and here we are. If you’ve not read the post, I suggest you go back here and do so, and if you’d like to see the survey questions, click here.

A couple of mishaps/notes:
1) I asked readers to take the survey if they are married or in a long-term committed relationship. I should have been more specific, because I did have some teenagers respond (my boyfriend lives four states away), so that skewed my results. I ended up filtering the results down to parents only to minimized that complication.
2) Several stated that they are currently trying to conceive, so their frequency of intercourse likely skewed the results as well.
3) A couple of the parents who responded that they are having sex daily are newlyweds with older children/stepchildren.

So, keeping all of that in mind, I’d like to let you know that I got a B in Statistics and this is so very not scientific.

Here are the results (make sure to read Dr. Kari’s notes after).

The Parenting/Relationship/Happiness Correlation Survey

I  sent the survey results to Dr. Kari. Some notes from her:

In general, as the frequency with which couples go out together increases, the amount of bedroom activity also increases.  The amount of sleep couples get also goes up as both the rate of going out AND bedroom activity increases.  It appears that this extra activity is not coming at the cost of a good night’s rest!  The extent to which couples go out, engage in bedroom activity, sleep, and exercise are all positively correlated with their ratings of relationship health and their own personal wellbeing.

There is a negative correlation between the number of kids a couple has and how often they go out.  More kids is associated with less going out (shocking, right?).  Increasing number of kids is also associated with decreasing sleep and a decreasing sense of personal well-being (this last finding is actually really consistent with other research in this area).

512 readers have at least one child under the age of 2, 12 have two kids under the age of 2.  On the other end of the spectrum, 84 readers have a teenager and 14 have two teenagers!  Readers with at least one child under the age of two report lower personal wellbeing and less sleep than those with older children and, on average, they go out less.  A higher proportion of readers with kids under the age of 2 hire some sort of outside help compared to those with older kids.  However, hiring outside help does not appear to help make these differences in wellbeing and sleep go away.  (Note from Roo: I didn’t include the working status of people surveyed because the combinations were just so extensive. One works FT from home, the other FT out of the home, or PT from home, or stay-at-home mom, etc.)

Readers with teenagers ALSO report lower wellbeing and tend to go out less than other readers with younger children (so apparently the sweet spot is older than 2 and less than 13!).  They are also way less likely to higher outside services than people with somewhat younger kids.

Readers whose primary role is a stay-at-home parent/caregiver report higher rates of relationship health and more bedroom activity than those who work full time outside of the home, however they tend to go out less.  There are no differences in any of these variables as a function of the spouse’s occupation.

And there you have it. The results were really interesting, and I think the general statement that parents who have very young children are sleep-deprived, have less sex, and are generally a little less happy with life and their marital relationships is probably not untrue. On the bright side, it also (I realize some of the graphs are tough to read) seemed to change as kids got older.

I am done looking at numbers and graphs for the next four years, but thank you so much to everyone who weighed in (and thank you for being patient). I’m really interested to know your thoughts. :)

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  • Reply Kaitlin April 14, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Really interesting! Thanks for compiling. I know you had issues (and you’re a mostly parenting site) but as a twenty something childless reader who took the survey, I’d be interested to know the responses from my childless peers!

    • Reply Allison April 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      I am also a twenty something, childless reader who has been in a long term relationship for many years and have been living together for 3. I know that this site isn’t necessarily geared towards me but I think Roo is hilarious.

      ANYWAYS. I took the survey because I was mostly curious if I was having enough sex (is that weird?) but now I’m reading the results and they’re super interesting but also kind of frighten me since we want to have kids in the next few years.

  • Reply Roo April 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Many respondents were people who aren’t living with a significant other, so the results are pretty skewed. I could try narrowing it down by age. Many of the questions were parent related (how many kids do you have?) but if you’d like to know results for a particular questions (frequency of sex, how often you go out, etc), I could try to compile that for you.

    • Reply Janelle @ Two Cups of Happy April 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      I’m in the same boat! 25, living together for 4 years — no kids. But I totally understand if the thought of more graphs makes you wanna vomit, Roo. :)

    • Reply Sarah April 14, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks for this! Very interesting to see that even people with children are getting more sleep than me (with no children).

      I think it would be interesting to see how couples-without-children’s lifestyles changed (on average) after having children. For example, how often did the respondents without children go out per week? How often were they intimate? How much sleep do they get? It might be skewed due to the living together piece, but would still kind of act as a control category. And I really need to know how much less sleep I’m going to get after I have a kid, since parents are apparently already beating me in that department ahhhh!

      Kidding, I can live without knowing. No more graphs for you. :)

  • Reply Brittany April 14, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I am really relieved to see that I’m not the only one who doesn’t get around to working out all the time and we seem to be the norm in the hanky panky department too! It seems like all the moms at school are all in great shape and going on dates and trips left and right!

    • Reply Roo April 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      It’s hard to really know what’s going on from the outside, huh? :)

  • Reply Joanna April 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing these results. As someone who became a mom just a little over a year ago, I really like seeing how my fellow parents are coping. The husband and I are finally making babysitting part of our monthly budget, and it makes me feel ALIVE. It may sound weird to say that a few hours away from my baby makes me a better parent, but I do believe it does :).

    • Reply Roo April 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Oooh it totally, totally does, Joanna!

  • Reply Annon April 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Interesting reading this after deciding to separate from my husband within the last week. Moral of the survey seems to be it’s hard to maintain a strong relationship …and kids make life more challenging but it really has little to do with them in the end anyway. The truth is it will or won’t work regardless of kids presence. Sometimes all of the check marks for a good husband or wife still don’t equal a relationship worth staying in – learning that now. If you feel you have something strong work on it before it’s too late. All things that are worth having take work. Cheers to those who figured this out before getting married!

    • Reply Roo April 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      I’m sorry you’re going through that – wishing you the best. I think it really, really varies – so many people (in studies, and anecdotally) have said that things were the roughest when the kids were little, and once things seemed to get out of panic mode… everything was easier all around. Good luck to you!

  • Reply Natasha April 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Ooooo I was just wondering when the results were coming out! It’s so faaaaaancy!
    Yep, we’re pretty average. Good to know ;)

    • Reply Roo April 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

  • Reply kate April 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Hi! Interesting survey- thank you for conducting/sharing. One question/issue I was curious about: lumping childcare in with things that seem to be more of a luxury, like a housekeeper, grocery delivery service and laundry service.
    I’m assuming that for some number of readers, regularly scheduled childcare is a totally necessary part of everyday life- and is almost the total opposite of what might be perceived as a ‘luxury’, since it’s usually horrifically expensive, totally vital, and scheduling can be as difficult as attempting to do a jig saw puzzle in the dark :)
    I’m a 32 year old single mom to an incredible 9 year old boy. I have a job that I love- and that most importantly keeps us afloat- but it requires me to work 50 hours per week, outside of the home, with a 2 hour/day commute. Needless to say, we do childcare in a hardcore way. And it can be a really hard situation.
    Anyways, I know everyone has different situations and experiences! I was just curious about your survey question.
    Have a good one. Keep doing what you do- I enjoy reading here :)

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Hey Kate! Out of the people who answered that one person in the family (either the person taking the survey, or the person taking the survey’s partner) stays at home full-time, only 8% of those people utilize childcare. :) (I went back and looked.)

      Thanks so much for reading, Kate! You sound like an amazing mom with an amazing son!

  • Reply J.Mill April 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    This is really interesting! I know the numbers/graphs were hard to process/make, but I enjoyed seeing the results!

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

  • Reply Caitlin @ {walker whimsy} April 14, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    This may be the only time I’ll ever be able to say, “Oh look! We’re normal!” to my DH. *\o/*

    To which he will probably respond, “Well, I’M normal. You’re just … you.”

    Half-normal, then. :D

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Hahaha half-normal is almost normal. ;)

  • Reply Lauren @ Faith and Macaroni April 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Really interesting. I’m in a different place now (8 month old) than I was then (3 month old, first kid), so it’s good to see the change in my answers. Less panicky and stressed as I’m getting into a groove parenting-wise. Truth is, life fluctuates. It’s good to read some honest answers about where everyone is. Thanks!

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Oh gosh, yeah, those first three months are a doozy! I bet you’re doing great, Lauren. :)

    • Reply Melanie April 15, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Similar changes here Lauren, but kid 2. Five months makes such a big difference. I am in no way implying that Roo needs to do “Survey, Part 2” but it would sure be interesting to see what the changes would be if the exact same people answered now. :)

  • Reply Lisa April 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Interesting AND nice looking stats – a winning combo!

    I’ve got 9, 7, 3 yr olds and a 9 mth old. Mummy and daddy hug time has that edge of terror that someone’s gonna get the shock of their lives. Shh, wait, what was that?? Shh, hang on, I think I heard..?? OMG, are those footsteps??

    Good times.

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      “Mommy, why’s your door locked? Can you see my fingers? They’re under the door! I’m waving to you.”

      For crying out loud.

  • Reply DontBlameTheKids April 15, 2014 at 10:16 am

    From the graph, it looks like there is no correlation between children and frequency of sex–that there is barely an increase in frequency if you don’t have children under 2 years old. Am I reading that wrong?

    • Reply Roo April 15, 2014 at 10:28 am

      As far as the “sex graphs” go, there’s not much of a difference between #1 and #2, mostly because most of the parents who responded have a child 2 and under, but you’ll see that there’s more of a difference between graphs #2 and #3. I can pull the numbers.

  • Reply erin April 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    This is super interesting, and also a little scary as I’m about to have my first kid… yikes! Gotta say, I’m a little freaked out by the fact that my relationship with my husband is about to change in such crazy ways (which, I knew before reading this, duh) but I do feel incredibly lucky that I’ve got a good one and I’m pretty sure we can weather the impending potential natural disasters headed our way – ha! Fingers crossed. ;) Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Roo April 20, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      You’re going to do great, Erin! :) I feel weird self-promoting, but I’ve written a couple of parenty posts about what I’ve learned along the way, and I think they’re pretty good reads for newbie parents. :)

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