Social Indicators Research

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 163–182 | Cite as

Family Functioning and Life Satisfaction and Happiness in South African Households

  • Ferdi BothaEmail author
  • Frikkie Booysen


Families form an integral part of society and in fostering individual well-being. Despite the acknowledged importance of family, the association between family functioning and individual well-being outcomes have remained unexplored in the current body of knowledge. This paper explores the association between family functioning and reported levels of life satisfaction and happiness in South Africa. The paper employs the Family Attachment and Changeability Index (FACI8) to measure family functioning, using data from the 2011 South African Social Attitudes Survey. Four measures of family functioning are utilised, namely the aggregate FACI8 scale, the attachment and changeability sub-scales, and family functioning type. Improvements in the level of family functioning as well as in the levels of attachment and changeability are positively associated with life satisfaction and happiness. In addition, individuals living in midrange or balanced family functioning types are more satisfied with life and happier compared to persons living in extremely or moderately dysfunctional families. The findings highlight the importance of supportive intra-family dynamics in fostering greater individual well-being. This in turn places emphasis on the investigation of likely correlates of family functioning and impact evaluations of family-focused social work interventions’ impact on family functioning as areas for future research.


Family functioning Family Subjective well-being South Africa 



We thank an anonymous referee of this journal for very valuable comments and suggestions. Ben Roberts and participants at the second conference on the Microeconometric Analysis of South African Data (MASA 2012) in Durban, 12–13 November 2012, provided helpful suggestions. Financial assistance from Rhodes University (Grant #RC2013) is acknowledged. The financial support of Economic Research Southern Africa is also gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Adams, G. A., King, L. A., & King, D. W. (1996). Relationships of job and family involvement, family social support, and work-family conflict with job and life satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81(4), 411–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., & Giuliano, P. (2010). The power of the family. Journal of Economic Growth, 15, 93–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bogenschneider, K., Little, O. M., Ooms, T., Benning, S., Cadigan, K., & Corbett, T. (2012). The family impact lens: A family-focused, evidence-informed approach to policy and practice. Family Relations, 61, 514–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Botha, F., & Booysen, F. (2013). The gold of one’s ring is not far more precious than the gold of one’s heart: Reported life satisfaction among married and cohabitating South African adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(2), 433–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, O., Fouché, P., & Coetzee, M. (2010). Bouncing forward: Families living with a type I diabetic child. South African Family Practice, 52(6), 536–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, O., & Robinson, J. (2012). Resilience in remarried families. South African Journal of Psychology, 42(1), 114–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, W.-C. (2012). How education enhances happiness: Comparison of mediating factors in four East Asian countries. Social Indicators Research, 106(1), 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Darling, C. A., Olmstead, S. B., & Tiggleman, C. (2010). Persons with AIDS and their support persons: Stress and life satisfaction. Stress and Health, 26, 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Easterlin, R. (2001). Income and happiness: Towards a unified theory. Economic Journal, 111, 465–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ebrahim, A., Botha, F., & Snowball, J. D. (2013). Determinants of life satisfaction among race groups in South Africa. Development Southern Africa, 30(2), 168–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2005). Income and well-being: An empirical analysis of the comparison income effect. Journal of Public Economics, 89, 997–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gamble, A., & Gärling, T. (2012). The relationships between life satisfaction, happiness, and current mood. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 31–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gerdtham, U. G., & Johannesson, M. (2001). The relationship between happiness, health, and socio-economic factors: Results based on Swedish micro data. Journal of Socio-Economics, 30, 553–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Greeff, A. P., & de Villiers, M. (2008). Optimism in family resilience. Social Work Practitioner-Researcher, 20(1), 21–34.Google Scholar
  16. Greeff, A. P., & Holtzkamp, J. (2007). The prevalence of resilience in migrant families. Family Community Health, 30(3), 189–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Greeff, A. P., & Lawrence, J. (2012). Indications of resilience factors in families who have lost a home in a shack fire. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 22, 210–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greeff, A. P., & van der Walt, K.-J. (2010). Resilience in families with an autistic child. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 45(3), 347–355.Google Scholar
  19. Greeff, A. P., & Wentworth, A. (2009). Resilience in families that have experienced heart-related trauma. Current Psychology, 28, 302–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gundelach, P., & Kreiner, S. (2004). Happiness and life satisfaction in advanced European countries. Cross-Cultural Research, 38(4), 359–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haller, M., & Hadler, M. (2006). How social relations and structures can produce happiness and unhappiness: An international comparative analysis. Social Indicators Research, 75, 169–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). (2011). 2011 South African Social Attitudes Survey. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.Google Scholar
  23. Jonker, L., & Greeff, A. P. (2009). Resilience factors in families living with people with mental illnesses. Journal of Community Psychology, 37(7), 859–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lelkes, O. (2006). Knowing what is good for you: Empirical analysis of personal preferences and the “objective good”. Journal of Socio-Economics, 35, 285–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Martin, M., & Westerhof, G. J. (2003). Do you need to have them or should you believe you have them? Resources, their appraisal, and well-being in adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 10(2), 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McCubbin, H. I., Thompson, A. I. & Elver, K. M. (1995). Family attachment and changeability index 8 (FACI8). In H. I. McCubbin, A. I. Thompson, & M. A. McCubbin (Eds.), 1996, Family assessment: Resiliency, coping and adaptation: Inventories for research and practice (pp. 725–751). Madison: University of Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  27. Møller, V. (2013). South African quality of life trends over three decades, 1980–2010. Social Indicators Research, 113, 915–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morris, M. L., & Blanton, P. (1998). Predictors of family functioning among clergy and spouses: Influences of social context and perceptions on work-related stressors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 7(1), 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. North, R. J., Holahan, C. J., Moos, R. H., & Cronkite, R. C. (2008). Family support, family income, and happiness: A 10-year perspective. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(3), 475–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Orviska, M., Caplanova, A., & Hudson, J. (2012). The impact of democracy on well-being. Social Indicators Research,. doi: 10.1007/s11205-012-9997-8.Google Scholar
  31. Oswald, A. J. (1997). Happiness and economic performance. Economic Journal, 107(445), 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Patterson, J. M. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pichler, F. (2006). Quality of life of young Europeans: Feeling happy but who knows why? Social Indicators Research, 75(3), 419–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Posel, D. R., & Casale, D. M. (2011). Relative standing and subjective well-being in South Africa: The role of perceptions, expectations and income mobility. Social Indicators Research, 104, 195–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Powdthavee, N. (2005). Unhappiness and crime: Evidence from South Africa. Economica, 72(547), 531–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rule, S. (2006). Religiosity and quality of life in South Africa. Social Indicators Research, 81(2), 417–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Selim, S. (2008). Life satisfaction and happiness in Turkey. Social Indicators Research, 88(3), 531–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stack, S., & Eshleman, J. R. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2), 527–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Economic HistoryRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations