Family and Non-Family Support during the Transition to Parenthood

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Malgorzata MIKUCKA , Higher School of Economics, Russia
Ester RIZZI , Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Although today parenting is largely a choice, having children causes stress. Parents, especially of young children, are tired, sleep deprived, and stressed (Evenson and Simon, 2005, Umberson et al., 2010). They experience financial strain (Stanca, 2012) and time pressure. Childcare, an activity slightly more enjoyable than housework (Kahneman et al., 2004) is in conflict with parents’ leisure, freedom, work demands, and romantic relationships (Angeles, 2010, Lyubomirsky and Boehm, 2010, Nomaguchi and Milkie, 2003, Twenge et al., 2003).

Previous studies show that families and other networks provide extensive help to parents of young children (mainly by providing childcare and housework, advice and information, as well as material support, see: Bengtson, 2001, Chan and Ermisch, 2011, Coall and Hertwig, 2010, Hank and Buber, 2009). However, longitudinal analyses of buffering effect of family and non-family networks, and the interplay of the two types of support remain understudied.

Our analysis fills this gap in several ways. First, we test if the support available from family and non-family networks actually increases after the transition to parenthood. Second, we test the hypothesis that family and non-family support alleviates the negative well-being consequences of early parenting. Third, we assume the family and non-family support affect differently mothers and fathers’ wellbeing.

We use the Swiss Household Panel to observe a sufficient number of transitions to parenthood together with detailed information on support available from relatives, neighbours, close friends and colleagues. To control for section effects, we use fixed effects (hypothesis 1) and difference-in-difference (hypothesis 2) models.

This is one of the few analyses explicitly testing with panel data the buffering effect of support from various sources during the transition to parenthood. It is also one of the few analyses testing if social support actually increases during the transition to parenthood, which so far is only a plausible assumption.