My children, your children, our children, and my well-being: Life satisfaction of “empty nest” biological parents and stepparents

Katya Ivanova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Studies on the association between parenthood and subjective well-being (SWB) have largely ignored the growing population of adults who experience more complex types of parenthood such as stepparenthood and multipartner fertility. We utilize the ‘Parents and Children in the Netherlands’ survey (OKiN) to study the association between different parenting roles and life satisfaction, a key component of SWB. We focus on the adjustment of parents in later life, rather than at the moment when they are living with dependent (step)children. The analytical sample was 6130 empty nest parents with a partner (10.9% reported having only stepchildren). The final linear regression models, accounted for individual selection into parenting status (e.g., educational attainment), characteristics of current partnership (e.g., trust in partner), and quality of intergenerational ties (i.e., average closeness with all (step)children). We find that once those variables were included in the models, no negative associations were found between any type of parenthood and life satisfaction. Interestingly, we find that quality of intergenerational ties acts as a suppressor; once accounted for, we find that (1) stepmothers report significantly and even substantially higher life satisfaction than mothers with only biological children with current partner; and (2) that fathers with only biological children from an ex-partner report higher life satisfaction than fathers with only biological children with current partner. Therefore, we argue that in order to better understand the predictive validity of type of parenthood for individual well-being, the quality of the intergenerational climate has to be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-633
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Volume21
Issue number2
Early online date2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Keywords

  • Biological parent
  • CONSEQUENCES
  • DIVORCE
  • Empty nest
  • FAMILIES
  • FERTILITY
  • GENDER-DIFFERENCES
  • Gender
  • HAPPINESS
  • Life satisfaction
  • MARRIAGE
  • MOTHERS
  • Parenthood
  • QUALITY
  • REMARRIAGE
  • Stepfather
  • Stepmother
  • Subjective well-being

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