Parenthood and Subjective Well-Being within Couples: The Division of Work, the Relevance of Mutual Appreciation, and the Role of Partner Effects

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Bernhard RIEDERER , Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Sociological and psychological theories point to parenthood as means to personal development and social embeddedness, discuss its function for societal integration and highlight its meaning in structuring people's lives and providing purpose in life. But the widespread belief that parenthood promotes happiness and satisfaction with life seems to be contradicted by a bulk of research discussing problems of reconciling professional work and family life. Quantitative studies primarily report negative effects of children upon parental well-being and qualitative research often highlights that especially women are confronted with an additional burden and the second shift at home.

Current research argues that children have both, positive and negative effects on parental well-being. Analyses conducted by the author with data of the European Value Study 2008/2009 reveal that individual factors (e.g., the stage in one’s life) as well as societal conditions (welfare state policy, dominant norms and values) contribute to variation in children’s effects. But consequences from parenthood directly affect the couple and the relationship between spouses. Therefore, effects of children on well-being and life satisfaction should also be dependent on the spouses capability of mutual perspective taking, and their support for each other.

The present research uses data from dual earner couples with young children to analyze the mediating role of (a) the division of household work, childcare tasks, and professional work, (b) positive and negative spillover from work to family and vice versa, (c) the appreciation spouses receive from each other, and (d) relationship conflict. In addition to actor effects, partner effects are also considered. Results are in line with the qualitative research that points to the importance of giving and receiving gratitude. Furthermore, the quantitative findings support what A.R. Hochschild wrote: "If men share the second shift it affects them directly. If they don’t share, it affects them through their wives.”