Parenthood and happiness at different ages of the child

Malgorzata Mikucka, Université Catholique de Louvain
Ester L. Rizzi, Université Catholique de Louvain

The literature on life satisfaction of parents focuses predominantly on the early years of parenting, neglecting the period when the child is older. Using the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), our paper attempts to fill this gap by observing the long-term dynamics of life satisfaction associated with parenthood. The focus on long-term life satisfaction consequences of parenthood is important for three main reasons. First, it allows accounting for rewards and challenges of parenthood, which vary according to the children’s ages. Second, these consequences may affect fertility choices, as individuals who decide if to have a child are exposed to examples of families with children of various ages. Finally, our perspective allows identifying particularly difficult stages of parenthood, which may signify structural or institutional problems, and therefore be of interest for designing and implementation of family policies. Our analysis uses fixed-effects models to analyze changes of life satisfaction of both mothers and fathers controlling for the unobserved heterogeneity. We follow the parents from the period of 4-6 years before the birth, up to the moment when the child is 26-30 years old. In face of limited duration of the panel (13 waves) we propose an analytical design that uses shorter selected panels to reconstruct the long-term dynamics of the process. Our analysis extends the literature on life satisfaction consequences of parenthood to a new data-set, that is SHP, and a new country, that is Switzerland. This allows us to verify the generalizability of previously formulated conclusions, which were based on a limited pool of data-sets and countries. Moreover, our study proposes an innovative methodological approach, which can be used to analyze long-term dynamics of a process even with data of limited length.

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Presented in Poster Session 2