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

  • Headey, Bruce

    ()

    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

  • Muffels, Ruud

    ()

    (Tilburg University)

  • Wagner, Gert G.

    ()

    (DIW Berlin)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6944.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6944
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  1. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert G. Wagner, 2010. "Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction: Similar Results for Australia, Britain and Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 302, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  2. P. Bentler & Edward Freeman, 1983. "Tests for stability in linear structural equation systems," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 143-145, March.
  3. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Guven, Cahit & Senik, Claudia & Stichnoth, Holger, 2012. "You can’t be happier than your wife. Happiness gaps and divorce," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 110-130.
  5. Andrew Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2003. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," DELTA Working Papers 2003-14, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  6. Andrew E. Clark & Yannis Georgellis, 2002. "Unemployment Alters the Set-Point for Life Satisfaction," Economics and Finance Discussion Papers 02-16, Economics and Finance Section, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University.
  7. Rainer Winkelmann, 2005. "Subjective well-being and the family: Results from an ordered probit model with multiple random effects," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 749-761, October.
  8. 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.
  9. N Powdthavee, 2008. "I Can’t Smile Without You: Spousal Correlation in Life Satisfaction," Discussion Papers 08/16, Department of Economics, University of York.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
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