Study Finds Women Who Embrace Marriage And Motherhood Are The Happiest Female Demographic

By now, you’ve probably heard the saying, “I’m a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man.” And, maybe that’s true. But, for the modern day woman, true joy and satisfaction may actually lie in going back to the basics – the traditional basics, that is.

By Audrey Enjoli4 min read
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Shutterstock/Shunevych Serhii

From holy matrimony to parenthood, embracing family-first values may be the key to living a happier life, according to the experts. At least, those were the findings in the 2022 American Family Survey, an annual nationwide study conducted by Deseret News and YouGov that explores national attitudes surrounding marriage and families.

“Guess which group of women ages 18 to 55 are the happiest? Conservative women,” explained W. Bradford Wilcox, an advisor on the survey team and a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Wilcox added that 31% of conservative women in this age group are completely satisfied with their lives compared to 16% of liberal women. “And this advantage can largely be explained by the fact that conservative women are 26 percentage points more likely to be married and 24 percentage points more likely to be happy with their family life,” he said.

Marriage and Motherhood in the Modern Era

Unfortunately, marriages and birth rates are at an all-time low and have been on a steady decline for the past five decades. The former is down nearly 60%, while the latter saw its sharpest drop since the late ‘80s in 2017.

Experts have long associated these trends with the shifting of attitudes toward gender roles, among others. Take today’s radical feminist movement, for one, which often promotes the likes of promiscuity and career-chasing above settling down and starting a family.

It should come as no surprise that more women are choosing to freeze their eggs. Some may point the finger at men as the reason why, citing a lack of good, quality men to marry. However, it’s far more likely that the truth lies somewhere in the fact that feminist culture encourages women to stave off marriage and kids in order to prioritize their careers.

Women with children are actually happier and more satisfied with their lives than women without children.

“I think there’s a narrative out there that married women with children are unhappy. And what we found is that is not true,” Suzanne Bates, the national politics editor for Deseret News, told Evie in an exclusive interview.

“Women with children are actually happier and more satisfied with their lives than women and men without children,” she continued. “I hope that sort of changes the narrative a little bit about whether marriage and family make people and women happy and satisfied.”

The negative views surrounding marriage and motherhood are widely lauded by today’s feminist movement, which has greatly strayed away from its original purpose: to promote equal rights for all women. What did we want? The ability to vote, to not be treated like second-class citizens, etc. What are we now getting? Destabilized family units, hookup culture, #bossbabe mentality, etc.

Of course, there is absolutely no shame in being a goal-setting career woman. (Power to those who’ve successfully managed a healthy balance between their job, raising babies, and their family life!) But the feminist movement now largely encourages women to operate just like men. And the reality is that women are different than men – in more ways than just meets the eye.

Celebrating Men and Women, and Their Differences

Answers to why mothers often rank higher in the happiness department can most certainly be found in the brain. Studies show that men and women actually respond to newborn infant faces differently. When shown pictures of babies, women’s brains saw more activity in areas related to empathy and attention.

The same goes for hearing a baby cry. Women’s brains will actually hone in on the infant’s cries; however, men’s brains do not typically activate in the same way, leaving them more prone to daydreaming.

That’s right, despite their similarities, men and women are markedly different. Studies show the biological differences between the two can result in varied psychological or behavioral traits and sex-specific health issues, such as certain mental health disorders and cancers like ovarian and prostate.

Delving deeper into the physiological differences, we find that women aren’t actually designed to thrive in the standard 8-to-5 work schedule. Men, who operate on a 24-hour hormone cycle, see significant spikes of testosterone in the early morning hours – which gives them increased focus, productivity, and energy for powering through the workday.

On the other hand, women operate on an average 28-day hormone cycle, which is marked by four phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. Unlike men, women tend to see a greater spike in testosterone mid-way through the cycle during the ovulatory phase. Overall, hormones fluctuate greatly throughout the cycle, impacting how women feel not only physically but emotionally as well. 

Stabilizing the Family Unit

In addition to parenthood, marriage is often another major contributing factor to happiness. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that married couples were significantly happier than their single peers. It also found that marriage is often positively correlated to overall well-being.

“Even after years, the married are still more satisfied,” John Helliwell, one of the study’s authors, said in a release. “This suggests a causal effect at all stages of the marriage, from pre-nuptial bliss to marriages of long duration.”

Even after years, the married are still more satisfied. 

So, going back to the saying that women don’t need men, a stark reality emerges: We actually do. And men need women in return.

In a world where 40% of children are born to unwed mothers, marriage is undoubtedly a key pillar for the success of parents and children alike. On average, research shows children born to single mothers face significant setbacks, including emotional and behavioral impacts, that peers raised by married parents do not. This is commonly associated with issues like financial burdens and other household stressors.

In addition to its positive mental health benefits, marriage helps to improve economic stability. According to Wilcox, recent findings show married mothers between the ages of 18 and 55 have a mean household income of approximately $133,000 – more than about $53,000 compared to single mothers. Single women without children make even less, bringing in an average annual income of about $67,000.

This is not to say that women can’t be the breadwinners, because they certainly are. In fact, more and more, wives are earning more than their husbands. (This is the case in about half of all marriages!)

But despite the amount of time they put in at the office, virtually or not, women are still doing more around the home. Want to take a wild guess as to why? No, it’s not because men are lazy. It goes back to biology: Women's nesting instincts make them nurturers by nature in the same way that men, by nature, desire women who can take care of the home.

The Path to Happiness

Without a doubt, what makes one woman happy might not work for the next, and vice versa. However, when it comes to living a joyous, fulfilling life, women who embrace family-first values appear to have a leg up on those who don’t.

“As a married woman and mother of five, I’m glad that this data shows that women – married moms – are happy with their lives,” Bates said. “I do think those things matter to life satisfaction and life fulfillment, which again, is not the narrative that I think is popular.”

So, for the women looking to attain true feelings of happiness in life, try starting with the basics – help to repair and strengthen the bonds between man and woman. Not sure how? When the time is right, draw words of wisdom from a rather unlikely source: Harrison Butker, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs.

During a moving commencement speech at his alma mater, Georgia Institute of Technology, Butker gave his advice for living a truly prosperous life. “In the end – no matter how much money you attain – none of it will matter if you are alone and devoid of purpose,” he said. “I can offer one controversial antidote that I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come: Get married and start a family."

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