Social Indicators Research

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 639–653 | Cite as

Parenthood, Marital Status, and Well-Being in Later Life: Evidence from SHARE

  • Karsten Hank
  • Michael Wagner


Using pooled cross-sectional data from the first two waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, we address the question of whether and how parenthood and marital status are associated with various dimensions of elders’ well-being, which we define by elements of the individual’s economic situation, psychological well-being, and social connectedness. The results of our multivariate analysis suggest that childless individuals do not generally fare worse than parents in terms of their economic, psychological, or social well-being. Although there is some indication for a ‘protective effect’ of marriage, having a partner does not per se contribute to greater psychological well-being: only those reporting satisfaction with the extent of reciprocity in their relationship report lower numbers of depression symptoms than their unmarried counterparts. We observe no systematic associations between parenthood (marriage, respectively) and individuals’ propensity to participate in social activities. These findings are fairly stable, that is, they hold for both men and women as well as across various cohorts, and they do not vary systematically between countries.


Parenthood Partnership Well-being SHARE 



This paper uses data from SHARE release 2.3.0, as of November 13th 2009. SHARE data collection in 2004-2007 was primarily funded by the European Commission through its 5th and 6th framework programs (project numbers QLK6-CT-2001- 00360; RII-CT- 2006-062193; CIT5-CT-2005-028857). Additional funding by the US National Institute on Aging (grant numbers U01 AG09740-13S2; P01 AG005842; P01 AG08291; P30 AG12815; Y1-AG-4553-01; OGHA 04-064; R21 AG025169) as well as by various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of SociologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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