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Researcher Finds Pattern among Happiest Parents

The Short of It

An Australian researcher was determined to find out what types of families are the happiest, and after five years and hundreds of interviews, he says he has found that parents who have gone through a lot of effort to grow their families are the most content.

The Lowdown

Bronwyn Harman, a psychology and social science lecturer at the Edith Cowan University in western Australia, spent five years interviewing 950 parents about their levels of happiness. He found the following parents were the happiest: ones who had large families, with four or more kids; those who chose IVF, surrogacy or adoption to start a family; and LGBT couples.

"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 told Yahoo Parenting.

Going into the project, Harman thought he'd find that families with several children were less happy because of the noise and constant needs, and he thought LGBT families would be less content because they have to deal with discrimination outside their homes.

Family therapist Lois Braverman, president and CEO of the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City, says larger families are probably happier because they always have someone to talk to and count on. They face less isolation. But, despite family size, she says the number one thing that determines happiness is family processes like positive parenting, setting boundaries, showing love and offering consistency.

So, which type of parents did Harman find to be the least happy? 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."

The Upshot

Harman's findings contrast a recent popular study that says when the first child comes along, 73 percent of couples expressed a decrease in happiness. And if their level of satisfaction in parenthood was low, they were less likely to have more kids.

But my neighbors fit the findings of this study perfectly. The two dads are a married couple with five adopted children, and I've never seen such a happy family. Whether they're playing in the backyard together or smiling for vacation pictures, you can tell that household is truly content. They worked hard for their marriage and to become parents, and it shows each time I see them.

What types of families do you think seem happiest?

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