Social Indicators Research

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 485–510 | Cite as

Altruism Within the Family: A Comparison of Father and Mother Using Life Happiness and Life Satisfaction

  • Qiyan OngEmail author
  • Kong Weng Ho
  • Kong Chong Ho


Studies on intra-household allocation of resources show that exogenous increase in mothers’ income has larger effect on children’s outcomes than the same increase in fathers’ income, suggesting gender differences may exist in parents’ altruism towards their children. Using self-reported life happiness and life satisfaction, we investigate the differences by gender in mutual altruism between father and child as well as mother and child dyads in Singapore. We found that mutual altruism exists between mother and child, but not between father and child. These findings are robust to the measure of self-reported well-being. Further, we find that gender difference in altruism of fathers and mothers is not driven by the difference in the extent of future old age support desired by fathers and mothers from their children.


Altruism Gender Parents Life happiness Life satisfaction 


  1. Becker, G. (1974). A theory of social interactions. Journal of Political Economy, 82, 1063–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker, G. (1993). Nobel lecture: The economic way of looking at behavior. Journal of Political Economy, 101, 385–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bergstrom, T. C. (1989). Love and spaghetti, the opportunity cost of virtue. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 3, 165–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bruhin, A., & Winkelmann, R. (2009). Happiness functions with preference interdependence and heterogeneity: The case of altruism within the family. Journal of Population Economics, 22, 1063–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chan, D. (2011). Negativity effects are stronger than positivity effects in life satisfaction and happiness. Paper presented at the annual association of psychological science convention, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, X., & Silverstein, M. (2000). Intergenerational social support and the psychological well-being of older parents in China. Research on Aging, 22, 43–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Compton, W. C. (2005). An introduction to positive psychology. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  8. Cox, D. (1987). Motives for private income transfers. Journal of Political Economy, 95, 508–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, R., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Lucas, R. (2003). Personality, culture and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 403–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duflo, E. (2000). Child health and household resources in South Africa: Evidence from the old age pension program. American Economic Review, 90, 393–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duncan, T. (1990). Intrahousehold resource allocation: An inferential approach. Journal of Human Resources, 25(4), 635–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ioannides, Y. M., & Kahn, K. (2000). The nature of two-sided altruism in intergenerational transfers of money and time: An empirical analysis. In L. A. Gérard-Varet, S. C. Kolm, & J. Mercier-Ythier (Eds.), The economy of reciprocity, giving and altruism (pp. 314–331). London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  14. Kohli, M. (1999). Private and public transfers between generations: Linking the family and the state. European Societies, 1(1), 81–104.Google Scholar
  15. Laferrère, A., & Wolff, F. (2006). Microeconomic models of family transfers. In S. C. Kolm & J. Mercier Ythier (Eds.), Handbook on the economics of giving, altruism and reciprocity (pp. 889–969). North-Holland: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  16. Lowenstein, A., Katz, R., & Gur-Yaish, N. (2007). Reciprocity in parent–child exchange and life satisfaction among the elderly: A cross-national perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 865–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Molina, J. A., Navarro, M., & Walker, I. (2011). Intergenerational well-being mobility in Europe. Kyklos, 64, 253–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Parsons, Talcott., & Bales, Robert. (1956). Family, socialization and interaction process. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  19. Powdthavee, N., & Vignoles, A. (2008). Mental health of parents and life satisfaction of children: A within-family analysis of intergenerational transmission of well-being. Social Indicators Research, 88(3), 397–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schwarz, J., & Winkelmann, R. (2010). Happiness and altruism within the extended family. Journal of Population Economics, 24, 1033–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shin, D., & Johnson, D. (1978). Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 5, 475–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith, A. (1976). The theory of moral sentiments, edited by D. D. Raphael & A. L. Macfie. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  23. Stark, O. (1993). Non-market transfers and altruism. European Economic Review, 37, 1413–1424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Suh, E., Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Triandis, H. (1998). The shifting basis of life satisfaction judgments across cultures: Emotions versus norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Winkelmann, R. (2005). Subjective well-being and the family: Results from an ordered probit model with multiple random effects. Empirical Economics, 30, 749–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and the Economic Growth CentreNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.School of BusinessSIM UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Department of SociologyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations