Washington Post: “Children, Parents Drive Each Other to Early Graves”
As usual, I’m late to the party, but I found this news item interesting. A study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that parents pay a price for having children. No, wait, it’s not what you think. We all know that children are expensive – you have to house, feed and clothe them for at least 18 years, and that’s not chump change – but what I’m talking about is the ultimate price. Parenting evidently takes years off your life.
Or so the headline would have us believe. If you continue reading the article, you’ll find that the researchers examined the reproductive history and survival rate of 21,684 couples married between 1860 and 1895.
When Penn and Smith examined their data, a clear and unmistakable trend stood out. The bigger the family, the smaller the chance that the parents would live into old age. Both mothers and fathers paid a price for having lots of children,with mothers always paying more, regardless of family size.
I think it goes without saying that mortality rates have declined since the 19th century. It seems foolhardy to extrapolate this data to the 21st century. However, it makes sense to me that the physical stress of having a child, along with the psychological stress of raising said child to adulthood*, would cause one to age more quickly – and thus die at an earlier age.
Remember this when your kid draws on the wall in permanent marker, or crashes the car into a lightpost. They are a joy, but they’re taking years off your life. My obstetrician conveniently forgot to mention that delightful little nugget when talking about the risks of childbirth.
Perhaps Viva will remain an only child after all. Her imaginary little brother is not stressing me out in the least.
* And even in a best case scenario – a healthy child being raised with familial and financial stability – there will still be stress. You still have to figure out how you are going to raise that child – what to feed him, where she should go to school, what to say when he comes home with a tongue piercing. It’s stressful being responsible for another person. Hoo boy, let me tell you. Do you have a second? Hey, wait, wait -- where ya going?