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Parents Transmit Happiness along with Associated Values and Behaviors to Their Children: A Lifelong Happiness Divided?

  • Bruce Headey
  • Ruud Muffels
  • Gert G. Wagner

There are strong two-way links between parent and child happiness (life satisfaction), even for 'children' who have grown up, moved to their own home and partnered themselves. German panel evidence shows that transmission of (un)happiness from parents to children is partly due to transmission of values and behaviors known to be associated with happiness (Headey, Wagner and Muffels, 2010, 2012). These values and behaviors include giving priority to pro-social and family values, rather than material values, maintaining a preferred balance between work and leisure, active social and community participation, and regular exercise. Both parents have about equal influence on the values and behaviors which children adopt. However, the life satisfaction of adult 'children' continues to be directly influenced by the life satisfaction of their mothers, with the influence of fathers being only indirect, via transmission of values and behaviors. There appears to be a lifelong happiness dividend (or unhappiness dividend) due to parenting.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.410305.de/diw_sp0492.pdf
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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 492.

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Length: 39 p.
Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp492
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  1. Guven, Cahit & Senik, Claudia & Stichnoth, Holger, 2009. "You Can't Be Happier than Your Wife: Happiness Gaps and Divorce," IZA Discussion Papers 4599, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. P. Bentler & Edward Freeman, 1983. "Tests for stability in linear structural equation systems," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 143-145, March.
  4. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2008. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 84, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  5. Rainer Winkelmann, 2002. "Subjective Well-Being and the Family: Results from an Ordered Probit Model with Multiple Random Effects," SOI - Working Papers 0204, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Jan 2004.
  6. Bruce Headey, 2008. "Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 213-231, April.
  7. Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Unemployment Alters the Set-Point for Life Satisfaction," DELTA Working Papers 2002-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  8. Cahit Guven & Claudia Senik & Holger Stichnoth, 2011. "You can't be happier than your wife. Happiness Gaps and Divorce," PSE Working Papers halshs-00555427, HAL.
  9. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  10. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2009. "I can't smile without you: Spousal correlation in life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 675-689, August.
  11. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert Wagner, 2013. "Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction: Similar Results for Australia, Britain and Germany," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 725-748, July.
  12. Michael Kind & John P. Haisken-DeNew, 2012. "Unexpected Victims: How Parents' Unemployment Affects Their Children's Life Satisfaction," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2012n02, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  13. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
  14. Ulrich Schimmack & Richard Lucas, 2010. "Environmental Influences on Well-Being: A Dyadic Latent Panel Analysis of Spousal Similarity," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 98(1), pages 1-21, August.
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