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Kids' Happiness Doesn't Depend on 2 Natural Parents, Says Study

Relationship quality key, not whether you live with stepparent, single parent or 2 natural parents

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children who live with a stepparent or a single parent are just as happy as kids in homes with two biological parents, a new British study finds.

"It's the quality of the relationships in the home that matters -- not the family composition,' said Jenny Chanfreau, of the NatCen Social Research team that conducted the study.

"Getting on well with siblings, having fun with the family at weekends, and having a parent who reported rarely or never shouting when the child was naughty, were all linked with a higher likelihood of being happy all the time among 7-year-olds," she said.

Researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 13,000 British 7-year-olds who took part in a 2008 survey. There was no significant difference in happiness levels among children in three different parenting situations: living with a biological parent and stepparent; living with two biological parents or residing with a single parent.

Overall, 36 percent of the children said they were happy all the time, and 64 percent said they were sometimes or never happy, according to the study to be presented Thursday at the British Sociological Association's annual meeting in Leeds, England.

Even after they eliminated factors such as social class, the researchers found no differences in happiness levels between the different groups of children.

However, relationships with parents and other children strongly affected the happiness of the 7-year-olds in the study. For example, those who weren't bullied at school and got along well with their siblings were more likely to be happy all the time.

"Pupil relations at school are also important -- being bullied at school or being 'horrible' to others was strongly associated with lower happiness in the 7-year-olds, for instance," Chanfreau said in an association news release.

The NatCen Social Research team also analyzed data from nearly 2,700 U.K. children aged 11 to 15 and found results similar to those in the younger children.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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