Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 577–598 | Cite as

Parental health and child behavior: evidence from parental health shocks

  • Andrea M. Mühlenweg
  • Franz G. Westermaier
  • Brant Morefield


This study examines the importance of parental health in the development of child behavior during early childhood. Our analysis is based on child psychometric measures from a longitudinal German dataset, which tracks mothers and their newborns up to age six. We identify major changes in parental health (shocks) and control for a variety of initial characteristics of the child including prenatal conditions. The results are robust to placebo regressions of health shocks that occur after the outcomes are measured. Our findings point to negative effects of maternal health shocks on children’s emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity. We estimate that maternal health shocks worsen outcomes by as much as 0.9 standard deviations. In contrast, paternal health seems to be less relevant to children’s behavioral skills.


Human capital Health Non-cognitive skills 

JEL Classification

I00 J24 I10 



We thank two anonymous referees, Sarah Hofmann, Verena Niepel, Frauke Peter, Patrick Puhani, Dave Ribar, C. Katharina Spieß, Christian Traxler and Joachim Winter for their valuable comments on the earlier versions of this study. We are also grateful to the participants of the International Institute of Public Finance Congress in Dresden, the Royal Economic Society Conference in Cambridge, the Leibniz Network Conference in London and the ZEW Workshop on Health and Human Capital in Mannheim for their fruitful discussions. Financial support by the Leibniz Association within the project “Non-Cognitive Skills: Acquisition and Economic Consequences” is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea M. Mühlenweg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Franz G. Westermaier
    • 3
    • 4
  • Brant Morefield
    • 5
  1. 1.WifORDarmstadtGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz University HannoverHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Philipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany
  4. 4.Hertie School of GovernanceBerlinGermany
  5. 5.L&M Policy ResearchWashingtonUSA

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