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

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  • Headey, Bruce

    () (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

  • Muffels, Ruud

    () (Tilburg University)

  • Wagner, Gert G.

    () (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)

Abstract

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. Structural equation models with two-way causation indicate that the life satisfaction of offspring can significantly affect the satisfaction of their parents, as well as vice-versa, long after the 'children' have left home. Data come from 25 waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (SOEP, 1984-2008). SOEP is the only panel survey worldwide in which data on life satisfaction have been obtained from parents and an adequate sub-sample of children no longer living in the parental home.

Suggested Citation

  • Headey, Bruce & Muffels, Ruud & Wagner, Gert G., 2012. "Parents Transmit Happiness along with Associated Values and Behaviors to Their Children: A Lifelong Happiness Dividend?," IZA Discussion Papers 6944, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6944
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Andrew E. Clark & Yannis Georgellis, 2002. "Unemployment Alters the Set-Point for Life Satisfaction," Public Policy Discussion Papers 02-16, Economics and Finance Section, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels, 2016. "Towards a Theory of Life Satisfaction: Accounting for Stability, Change and Volatility in 25-Year Life Trajectories in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 864, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Necker, Sarah & Voskort, Andrea, 2014. "Politics and parents — Intergenerational transmission of values after a regime shift," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 177-194.
    3. Schnitzlein Daniel D. & Wunder Christoph, 2016. "Are We Architects of Our Own Happiness? The Importance of Family Background for Well-Being," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 125-149, January.
    4. Kang-Rae Ma, 2016. "Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth and Life Satisfaction," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 11(4), pages 1287-1308, December.
    5. Felix FitzRoy & Michael Nolan & Max Steinhardt & David Ulph, 2014. "Testing the tunnel effect: comparison, age and happiness in UK and German panels," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-30, December.
    6. Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Stutzer, Alois, 2014. "Economic Approaches to Understanding Change in Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 8131, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP); inter-generational transmission; child happiness; subjective well-being; life satisfaction; structural equation models;

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models

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