When it comes to raising kids, having more may not make you merrier.
A new study from Australia found that having a second child worsens parents’ mental health.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne combed through 16 years of data from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia Survey. They found both parents showed improvements in mental health after having their first child. But a second child doubles parents’ time pressure, adding further stress to their lives and negatively affecting their mental health.
Bianca Rodriguez, a marriage and family therapist, says the study’s findings are consistent with her professional experience.
“It’s been said that having one child is what you’d expect but having two is like having 10,” Rodriguez, who’s based in Los Angeles, told The Post. “This is because the amount of attention required for two children is not doubled, it’s exponentially greater because now you have the added dynamic between the children to manage.”
The study also found that a second child has a greater impact on a mother’s mental health than a father’s.
“Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child,” the researchers wrote in a column for The Conversation. “But, unlike mothers, fathers’ mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren’t facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long term.”
Researchers say mothers experience higher stress levels when it comes to raising kids because traditionally females are saddled with more of the child care responsibilities at home. The study advises “collectivizing childcare” and investing in school buses, lunch programs and more flexible work policies so fathers can have a bigger role at home.