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Intergenerational Transmission of Latent Satisfaction Reflected by Satisfaction Across Multiple Life Domains: A Prospective 32-year Follow-Up Study

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Intergenerational transmission of life satisfaction has been empirically established, but less is known about the continuity of satisfaction as being reflected across multiple life domains, unique effects of parental domain-specific satisfaction on offspring overall life satisfaction, and potential gender effects. In this population-based prospective study, the association between the life satisfaction of parents (G1) (2191 mothers and 2156 fathers) and their children (G2) (921 sons and 1277 daughters) was examined. In both generations, satisfaction as a parent, as a spouse, and at work was assessed in about the same developmental stage (mean age for G1 38–42 years, and for G2 38–43 years at the times when LS was measured). When both parents were considered jointly, only mothers’ overall life satisfaction had an independent effect on their adult children’s overall life satisfaction, with the effect diminishing over time. However, we also found a robust effect of paternal satisfaction at work on offspring’s overall life satisfaction in adulthood. Gender of the offspring did not significantly moderate the strength of the associations between generations. The current findings emphasize the high interdependence of life satisfaction within families long after children have moved out of the parental home.

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  1. The intergenerational transmission of life satisfaction is also dependent on shared genes (Bartels 2015; Carlsson et al. 2014). We will return to this limitation of our study design in the discussion section.

  2. To use all the available information, in addition to data on fathers’ and mothers’ life satisfaction in 1983, we also decided to include data on mothers’ life satisfaction in 1980.


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The current study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland Grants 258578 (M. H.) and 265869 (Mind).

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Correspondence to Mirka Hintsanen.

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Dobewall, H., Hintsanen, M., Savelieva, K. et al. Intergenerational Transmission of Latent Satisfaction Reflected by Satisfaction Across Multiple Life Domains: A Prospective 32-year Follow-Up Study. J Happiness Stud 20, 955–970 (2019).

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