Project in detail

Parenthood and Happiness - The Early Years

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Recently, the effect of fertility on parents' happiness has garnered much attention in scientific papers as well as in the media. The present project focuses on how life satisfaction of mothers and fathers evolves around the time of family formation and in the first years thereafter. At least two alternative theoretical explanations have been put forth to explain why parental well-being might change in response to childbirth and why this effect might not be time-constant: Hedonic adaptation and time-varying benefits and costs of children. Using data from 8 waves of the German Family Panel (pairfam) and employing distributed fixed-effects models, we estimate the time-varying total effect of family formation on parents' life satisfaction as well as the indirect effects operating via interrelated mediating mechanisms. These comprise measures on health, stress and fatigue, relationship quality, social and leisure activities, working hours and income, compensations and allowances. We find evidence for both, hedonic adaptation as well as endogenous shifts in the sources of well-being. In the short term, women profit more from becoming a mother. But they also face higher costs – mainly as labour, leisure and the relationship to the partner become less satisfying upon motherhood. In the long run, both partners adapt to their baseline levels of wellbeing. The project is conducted in cooperation with Gerrit Bauer and Josef Brüderl (LMU). It has been presented at several international conferences and is close to completion with the final data analysis done and a manuscript in preparation.

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