Child Indicators Research

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 523–545 | Cite as

Exploring the Relative Influence of Family Stressors and Socio-Economic Context on Children’s Happiness and Well-Being

  • Colette McAuley
  • Richard Layte


This paper examines the relative influence of family stressors and the family’s socioeconomic circumstances on children’s happiness. Data from the 9 year old cohort of the national Growing Up in Ireland study (GUI) was used to examine these relationships. The sample consisted of 8,568 children and their families. The stressors considered were a conflictual parent–child relationship; children with emotional and social problems; parental depression; low parental self-efficacy and child isolation. A group of families and children who were experiencing a higher level of these stressors was identified. This constituted 16 % of the sample. Although socioeconomic disadvantage contributed significantly to the vulnerability of this group, it was by no means the sole or dominant issue. Using the Piers-Harris Happiness and Satisfaction Subscale, children’s self-assessed happiness in this identified group was found to be significantly lower than in the other groups, irrespective of socioeconomic and demographic variables. The family stressors were found to explain more than twice the variance in the children’s happiness than explained by the measures of socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, most of the variance remains unexplained. Future research directions to explore this are indicated.


Child happiness Well-being Family Stressors Socioeconomic context 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Social ScienceUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Economic and Social Research InstituteDublinIreland

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