Social Indicators Research

, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 397–422 | Cite as

Mental Health of Parents and Life Satisfaction of Children: A Within-Family Analysis of Intergenerational Transmission of Well-Being

Article

Abstract

This paper addresses the extent to which there is an intergenerational transmission of mental health and subjective well-being within families. Specifically it asks whether parents’ own mental distress influences their child’s life satisfaction, and vice versa. Whilst the evidence on daily contagion of stress and strain between members of the same family is substantial, the evidence on the transmission between parental distress and children’s well-being over a longer period of time is sparse. We tested this idea by examining the within-family transmission of mental distress from parent to child’s life satisfaction, and vice versa, using rich longitudinal data on 1,175 British youths. Results show that parental distress at year t − 1 is an important determinant of child’s life satisfaction in the current year. This is true for boys and girls, although boys do not appear to be affected by maternal distress levels. The results also indicated that the child’s own life satisfaction is related with their father’s distress levels in the following year, regardless of the gender of the child. Finally, we examined whether the underlying transmission correlation is due to shared social environment, empathic reactions, or transmission via parent–child interaction.

Keywords

Life satisfaction Mental health Intergenerational transmission Within-family Longitudinal GHQ 

References

  1. Allgood-Merton, B., Lewinsohn, P. M., & Hops, H. (1990). Sex differences and adolescent depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 55–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almeida, D. M., Wethington, E., & Chandler, A. L. (1999). Daily transmission of tensions between marital dyads and parent–child dyads. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61, 49–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amenson, C. S., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (1981). An investigation into the observed sex difference in prevalence of unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Avison, W. R., & McAlpine, D. D. (1992). Gender differences in symptoms of depression among adolescents. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 33, 77–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balatsky, G., & Diener, E. (1993). Subjective well-being among Russian students. Social Indicator Research, 28, 225–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baron, P., & Joly, E. (1988). Sex differences in the expression of depression in adolescents. Sex Roles, 18, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkowitz, L. (1989). Frustration-aggression hypothesis: Examination and reformation. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanden, J., Gregg, P., & Macmillan, L. (2006). Explaining intergenerational income persistence: Non-cognitive skills, ability and education. CMPO Working Paper Series 06/146.Google Scholar
  9. Bolger, N., DeLongis, A., Kessler, R. C., & Wethington, E. (1989). The contagion of stress across multiple roles. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51, 175–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowling, A. (1991). Measuring health. A review of quality of life measurement scales (1st ed.). Milton Keynes: OUP.Google Scholar
  11. Brack, C. J., Du, D. P., & Ingersoll, G. (1988). Pubertal maturation and adolescent self-esteem. Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 9, 280–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  13. Bray, J. H., Maxwell, S. E., & Cole, D. (1995). Multivariate statistics for family psychology research. Journal of Family Psychology, 9, 144–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burke, R. J., & Weir, T. (1978). Sex differences in adolescent life stress, social support, and well-being. Journal of Psychology, 98, 277–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chamberlain, K. (1988). On the structure of well-being. Social Indicators Research, 20, 581–604.Google Scholar
  16. Christensen, A., & Margolin, G. (1988). Conflict and alliance in distressed and nondistressed families. In R. A. Hinde & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), Relationships within families: Mutual influences (pp. 263–282). Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Clark, A. E. (2001). What really matters in a job? Hedonic measurement using quit data. Labor Economics, 8, 223–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clark, A. E. (2003). Unemployment as a social norm: Psychological evidence from panel data. Journal of Labor Economics, 21, 323–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (1994). Unhappiness and unemployment. Economic Journal, 104, 648–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Conger, R. D., Ge, X., Elder, G. H., Lorenze, F. O., & Simon, R. L. (1994). Economic stress, coercive family process and development problems of adolescents. Child Development, 65, 451–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1988). Personality in adulthood: A six-year longitudinal study of self-reports and spouse ratings on the NEO personality inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 853–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crouter, A. C. (1984). Spillover from family to work: The neglected side of the work–family interface. Human Relations, 37, 425–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cyranowski, J. M., Frank, E., Young, E., & Shear, K. (2000). Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression: A theoretical model. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57, 21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. D’Arcy, C., & Siddique, C. M. (1984). Mental distress among Canadian adolescents. Psychological Medicine, 14, 615–625.Google Scholar
  25. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. E. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Downey, G., Purdie, V., & Schaffer-Neitz, R. (1999). Anger transmission from mother to child: A comparison of mothers in chronic pain and well mothers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 62–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Eckman, P., Davidson, R. J., & Friesen, W. V. (1990). The Duchenne smile: Emotional expression and brain physiology II. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 342–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Friedrich, W. N., Reams, R., & Jacobs, J. H. (1988). Sex differences in depression in early adolescents. Psychological Reports, 62, 475–481.Google Scholar
  30. Gardner, J., & Oswald, A. J. (2007). Money and mental well-being: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins. Journal of Health Economics, 26, 49–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gareis, K. C., Barnett, R. C., & Brennan, R. T. (2003). Individual and crossover effects of work schedule fit: A within-couple analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 1041–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ge, X., Conger, R. D., Lorenze, F. O., Shanahan, M., & Elder, G. H. (1995). Mutual influences in parents and adolescent mental distress. Developmental Psychology, 31, 406–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goldberg, D. P. (1978). The manual of the General Health Questionnaire. Windsor: NFER.Google Scholar
  34. Goldings, H. J. (1954). On the avowal and projection of happiness. Journal of Personality, 23, 30–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Graham, C., Eggers, A., & Sukhtankar, S. (2004). Does happiness pay? An exploration based on panel data from Russia. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 55, 319–342.Google Scholar
  36. Grych, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (1990). Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: A cognitive-contextual framework. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 267–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hankin, B. L., Abramson, L. Y., Moffitt, T. E., Silva, P. A., McGee, R., & Angell, K. E. (1998). Development of depression from preadolescence to young adulthood: Emerging gender differences in a 10-year longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 128–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Headey, B. W., Holmstrom, E., & Wearing, A. J. (1985). Models of well-being and ill-being. Social Indicators Research, 17, 211–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Headey, B. W., Kelley, J., & Wearing, A. J. (1993). Dimensions of mental health: life satisfaction, positive affect, anxiety and depression. Social Indicators Research, 29, 68–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Heckman, J., & Rubinstein, Y. (2001). The importance of noncognitive skills: Lessons from the GED testing program. American Economic Review, 91, 145–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jones, E., & Fletcher, B. (1993). An empirical study of occupational stress transmission in working couples. Human Relations, 46, 881–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, method, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kenny, D., Kashy, D., & Bolger, N. (1998). Data analysis in social psychology. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (4th ed., pp. 233–265). Boston: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  44. Larson, R. W., & Almeida, D. M. (1999). Emotional transmission in the daily lives of families: A new paradigm for studying family process. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Larson, R. W., & Gillman, S. (1999). Transmission of emotions in the daily interactions of single-mother families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a new science. New York: Penguin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lewinsohn, P. M., Zeiss, A. M., & Duncan, E. M. (1989). Probability of relapse after recovery from an episode of depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98, 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Liang, J. (1985). A structural integration of the affective balance scale and the life-satisfaction index A. Journal of Gerontology, 40, 552–561.Google Scholar
  49. Maguire, M. C. (1999). Treating the dyad as the unit of analysis: A primer on three analytic approaches. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 213–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McLoyd, V. (1989). Socialization and development in changing economy: The effect of parental job and income loss on children. American Psychologist, 44, 293–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Michalos, A. C. (1991). Global report on student well-being. Life-satisfaction and happiness (Vol. I). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  52. Mitchell, J., McCauley, E., Burke, P. M., & Moss, S. J. (1988). Phenomenology of depression in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 137, 1081–1083.Google Scholar
  53. Murnane, R., Willett, J., & Levy, F. (1995). The growing importance of cognitive skills in wage determination. Review of Economics and Statistics, 77, 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nada-Raja, S., McGee, R., & Stanton, W. R. (1992). Perceived attachments to parents and peers and psychological well-being in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescents, 21, 471–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nolan-Hoeksema, S. (1994). An interactive model for the emergence of gender differences in depression in adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 4, 519–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Nolan-Hoeksema, S. (2001). Gender differences in depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 173–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Oswald, A. J. (1997). Happiness and Economic Performance. Economic Journal, 107, 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Oswald, A. J., & Powdthavee, N. (2007). Obesity, unhappiness, and offer’s the challenge of affluence: Theory and evidence. Economic Journal, 117, 441–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Palmore, E. (1969). Predicting longevity: A follow-up controlling for age. Journal of Gerontology, 39, 109–116.Google Scholar
  60. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Piotrokowski, C. S. (1979). Work and the family system: A naturalistic study of working-class and lower middle-class families. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  62. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  63. Repetti, R. L. (1987). Linkages between work and family roles. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Applied social psychology annual (Vol. 7, pp. 98–127). Family processes and problems. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  64. Repetti, R. L. (1989). Effects of daily workload on subsequent behavior during marital interaction: The role of social withdrawal and spouse support. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 651–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Repetti, R. L., & Wood, J. (1997). Effects of daily stress at work on mothers’ interactions with preschoolers. Journal of Family Psychology, 11, 90–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Roberts, L. J., & Krokoff, L. J. (1990). A time-series analysis of withdrawal, hostility, and displeasure in satisfied and dissatisfied marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 95–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rook, S. K., Dooley, D., & Catalano, R. (1991). Stress transmission: The effects of husbands’ job stressor on emotional health of their wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 165–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rowe, K. K. J., & Hill, P. W. (1998). Modelling educational effectiveness in classrooms: The use of multi-level structural equations to model students’ progress. Educational Research and Evaluation, 4, 307–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rutter, M. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Prospective factors and resilience to psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 598–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sales, S. M., & House, J. (1971). Job dissatisfaction as a possible risk factor in coronary heart disease. Journal of Chronic Diseases, 23, 861–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sandvitz, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self and non self report measures. Journal of Personality, 61, 317–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schaefer, C., Coyne, J. C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). The health-related functions of social support. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 381–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Shedler, J., Mayman, M., & Manis, M. (1993). The illusion of mental health. American Psychologist, 48, 1117–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shin, D. C., & Johnson, D. M. (1978). Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 5, 475–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stock, W. A., Okun, M. A., & Benin, M. (1986). Structure of subjective well-being among the elderly. Psychology and Aging, 1, 91–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Stolzenberg, R. M. (2001). It’s about time and gender: Spousal employment and health. American Journal of Sociology, 107, 61–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Theodossiou, I. (1998). The effect of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach. Journal of Health Economics, 17, 85–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wade, T. J., Cairney, J., & Pevalin, D. J. (2002). Emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence: National panel results from three countries. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 190–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience aversive emotional state. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Webb, T. E., & VanDevere, C. A. (1985). Sex differences in the expression of depression: A developmental interaction effect. Sex Roles, 12, 91–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Westman, M., & Etzion, D. (1995). Crossover of stress, strain and resources from one spouse to another. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 16, 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Westman, M., & Vinokur, A. D. (1998). Unraveling the relationship of distress levels within couples: Common stressors, empathic reactions, or crossover via social interaction? Human Relations, 51, 137–156.Google Scholar
  83. Wildman, J. (2003). Income related inequalities in mental health in Great Britain: Analysing the causes of health inequality over time. Journal of Health Economics, 22, 295–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations