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Parenthood, Marital Status, and Well-Being in Later Life: Evidence from SHARE

Listed author(s):
  • Karsten Hank


  • Michael Wagner


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    Using pooled cross-sectional data from the first two waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, we address the question of whether and how parenthood and marital status are associated with various dimensions of elders’ well-being, which we define by elements of the individual’s economic situation, psychological well-being, and social connectedness. The results of our multivariate analysis suggest that childless individuals do not generally fare worse than parents in terms of their economic, psychological, or social well-being. Although there is some indication for a ‘protective effect’ of marriage, having a partner does not per se contribute to greater psychological well-being: only those reporting satisfaction with the extent of reciprocity in their relationship report lower numbers of depression symptoms than their unmarried counterparts. We observe no systematic associations between parenthood (marriage, respectively) and individuals’ propensity to participate in social activities. These findings are fairly stable, that is, they hold for both men and women as well as across various cohorts, and they do not vary systematically between countries. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Indicators Research.

    Volume (Year): 114 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 2 (November)
    Pages: 639-653

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:114:y:2013:i:2:p:639-653
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-012-0166-x
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    1. Richard W. Johnson & Melissa M. Favreault, 2004. "Economic Status in Later Life Among Women Who Raised Children Outside of Marriage," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(6), pages 315-323.
    2. Marcel Erlinghagen & Karsten Hank, 2005. "Participation of Older Europeans in Volunteer Work," MEA discussion paper series 05071, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    3. Karsten Hank, 2010. "Childbearing History, Later Life Health, and Mortality in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 305, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    4. Sandra Hofferth, 1984. "Long-term economic consequences for women of delayed childbearing and reduced family size," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 21(2), pages 141-155, May.
    5. Waldron, Ingrid & Hughes, Mary Elizabeth & Brooks, Tracy L., 1996. "Marriage protection and marriage selection--Prospective evidence for reciprocal effects of marital status and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 113-123, July.
    6. Zhenmei Zhang & Mark D. Hayward, 2001. "Childlessness and the Psychological Well-Being of Older Persons," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 56(5), pages 311-320.
    7. Lucia Coppola & Mariachiara Di Cesare, 2008. "How fertility and union stability interact in shaping new family patterns in Italy and Spain," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 18(4), pages 117-144, March.
    8. Robert D. Plotnick, 2009. "Childlessness and the Economic Well-being of Older Americans," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 64(6), pages 767-776.
    9. Howard Litwin, 2010. "Social Networks and Well-being: A Comparison of Older People in Mediterranean and Non-Mediterranean Countries," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 65(5), pages 599-608.
    10. Thomas Hansen & Britt Slagsvold & Torbjørn Moum, 2009. "Childlessness and Psychological Well-Being in Midlife and Old Age: An Examination of Parental Status Effects Across a Range of Outcomes," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 94(2), pages 343-362, November.
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