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

38 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2012

See all articles by Bruce Headey

Bruce Headey

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research

Ruud Muffels

Tilburg University

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Berlin University of Technology; German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)

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Date Written: October 27, 2012

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.

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

JEL Classification: D60, I31, J13, J22, C33

Suggested Citation

Headey, Bruce and Muffels, Ruud and Wagner, Gert G., Parents Transmit Happiness Along with Associated Values and Behaviors to Their Children: A Lifelong Happiness Dividend? (October 27, 2012). IZA Discussion Paper No. 6944, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2167566

Bruce Headey (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

Ruud Muffels

Tilburg University ( email )

Postbus 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands
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0031134663003 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uvt.nl/

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

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Berlin, 10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8 978 9200 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/programme/jsp/MA.jsp?language=en&uid=gwagner

Berlin University of Technology ( email )

Stra├če des 17
Berlin, 10623
Germany
+30 8 978 9283 (Phone)

German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) ( email )

DIW Berlin
10108 Berlin, Berlin
Germany
+49 30 8978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8978 9109 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw/en/soep

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