Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

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

By Nattavuudh Powdthavee and Anna Vignoles


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

Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1985). A structural integration of the Affective Balance Scale and the Life-satisfaction Index A.
  2. (1990). A time-series analysis of withdrawal, hostility, and displeasure in satisfied and dissatisfied marriage.
  3. (2000). Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression: A theoretical model. Archives of General Psychiatry
  4. (1993). An empirical study of occupational stress transmission in working couples. Human Relations
  5. (1994). An interactive model for the emergence of gender differences in depression in adolescence.
  6. (1981). An investigation into the observed sex difference in prevalence of unipolar depression.
  7. (1999). Anger transmission from mother to child: A comparison of mothers in chronic pain and well mothers.
  8. (1978). Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life.
  9. (1988). Conflict and alliance in distressed and nondistressed families. In
  10. (1995). Crossover of stress, strain and resources from one spouse to another.
  11. (1999). Daily transmission of tensions between marital dyads and parent-child dyads.
  12. (1998). Data analysis in social psychology. In
  13. (1998). Development of depression from preadolescence to young adulthood: Emerging gender differences in a 10-year longitudinal study.
  14. (1993). Dimensions of mental health: life satisfaction, positive affect, anxiety and depression. Social Indicators Research
  15. (2004). Does happiness pay? An exploration based on panel data from Russia.
  16. (1994). Economic stress, coercive family process and development problems of adolescents. Child Development
  17. (1997). Effects of daily stress at work on mothers’ interactions with preschoolers.
  18. (1989). Effects of daily workload on subsequent behavior during marital interaction: The role of social withdrawal and spouse support.
  19. (2002). Emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence: National panel results from three countries.
  20. (1999). Emotional transmission in the daily lives of families: A new paradigm for studying family process.
  21. (2006). Explaining intergenerational income persistence: non-cognitive skills, ability and education, CMPO Working Paper Series 06/146;
  22. (2001). Gender differences in depression.
  23. (1992). Gender differences in symptoms of depression among adolescents.
  24. (1991). Global report on student well-being. Life-satisfaction and happiness, volume I.
  25. (1997). Happiness and Economic Performance.
  26. (2005). Happiness: lessons from a new science,
  27. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks,
  28. (1987). Impact of puberty on family relations: Effects on pubertal status and pubertal timing. Developmental Psychology
  29. (2003). Income related inequalities in mental health in Great Britain: Analysing the causes of health inequality over time. doi
  30. (2003). Individual and crossover effects of work schedule fit: A within-couple analysis.
  31. (2001). It’s about time and gender: Spousal employment and health.
  32. (1971). Job dissatisfaction as a possible risk factor in coronary heart disease.
  33. (1991). Keynes;
  34. (1987). Linkages between work and family roles.
  35. (1990). Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitivecontextual framework.
  36. (1984). Mental distress among Canadian adolescents.
  37. (1998). Modelling educational effectiveness in classrooms: The use of multi-level structural equations to model students’ progress. Educational Research and Evaluation
  38. (1985). Models of well-being and ill-being. Social Indicators Research
  39. (2007). Money and mental well-being: A longitudinal study of mediumsized lottery wins.
  40. (1995). Multivariate statistics for family psychology research.
  41. (1995). Mutual influences in parents and adolescent mental distress. Developmental Psychology
  42. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience aversive emotional state. Psychological Bulletin
  43. (1954). On the avowal and projection of happiness.
  44. (1988). On the structure of well-being.
  45. (1992). Perceived attachments to parents and peers and psychological well-being in adolescence.
  46. (1988). Personality in adulthood: A six-year longitudinal study of self-reports and spouse ratings on the NEO personality inventory.
  47. (1988). Phenomenology of depression in children and adolescents.
  48. (1969). Predicting longevity: A follow-up controlling for age.
  49. (1989). Probability of relapse after recovery from an episode of depression.
  50. (1988). Pubertal maturation and adolescent self-esteem.
  51. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Prospective factors and resilience to psychiatric disorder.
  52. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment
  53. (1990). Sex differences and adolescent depression.
  54. (1978). Sex differences in adolescent life stress, social support, and wellbeing.
  55. (1982). Sex differences in depression in early adolescents. Psychological Reports
  56. (1988). Sex differences in the expression of depression in adolescents; Sex Roles
  57. (1985). Sex differences in the expression of depression: A developmental interaction effect. Sex Roles
  58. (1989). Socialization and development in changing economy: the effect of parental job and income loss on children. American Psychologist
  59. (1984). Spillover from family to work: The neglected side of the work-family interface. Human Relations
  60. (1991). Stress transmission: The effects of husbands’ job stressor on emotional health of their wives.
  61. (1986). Structure of subjective well-being among the elderly. Psychology and Aging
  62. (1993). Subjective well-being among Russian students. Social Indicator Research
  63. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self and non self report measures.
  64. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress.
  65. (1984). Subjective well-being.
  66. (1989). The contagion of stress across multiple roles.
  67. (1990). The Duchenne smile: Emotional expression and brain physiology II.
  68. (1998). The effect of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach.
  69. (1995). The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination. Review of Economics and Statistics
  70. (1981). The health-related functions of social support.
  71. (1993). The illusion of mental health.
  72. (2001). The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program. American Economic Review
  73. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: a review of theory, method, and research. Psychological Bulletin
  74. (1978). The manual of the General Health Questionnaire.
  75. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being.
  76. (1999). Transmission of emotions in the daily interactions of singlemother families.
  77. (1999). Treating the dyad as the unit of analysis: A primer on three analytic approaches.
  78. (1994). Unhappiness and unemployment.
  79. (2007). unhappiness, and Offer’s The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and evidence.
  80. (1998). Unraveling the relationship of distress levels within couples: Common stressors, empathic reactions, or crossover via social interaction? Human Relations doi
  81. (2001). What really matters in a job? Hedonic measurement using quit data. Labor Economics
  82. (1979). Work and the family system: A naturalistic study of working-class and lower middle-class families.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.