Does it take a village to raise a child? The buffering effect of relationships with relatives for parental life satisfaction

Małgorzata Mikucka and Ester Rizzi

Nº 2016-01

DOI :

10.24440/FWP-2016-00001

How to cite this article :

Mikucka, M. & Rizzi, E. (2016). Does it take a village to raise a child? The buffering effect of relationships with relatives for parental life satisfaction. FORS Working Paper Series, paper 2016-1. Lausanne: FORS.

A different version of this paper has meanwhile been published as :

Małgorzata, M. & Rizzi, E. (2016). Does it take a village to raise a child? The buffering effect of relationships with relatives for parental life satisfaction. Demographic Research 34, 943-994.

Keywords :

Life satisfaction ; Parenthood ; Relatives ; Social support ; Fixed effects analysis

Abstract :

Strong relationships with relatives may alleviate consequences of stressful experiences, but the evidence documenting such ‘buffering effect’ during parenthood is scarce. This paper investigated the buffering effect of relationships with relatives during parenthood in Switzerland. We tested if relationships with relatives (network size, frequency of contact, and availability of practical and emotional support) became stronger in response to parenthood, and if people who had stronger relationships with their relatives experienced more positive trajectories of life satisfaction during parenthood. We used Swiss Household Panel data for years 2000-2011 and fixed effects regression models. Our results showed that the birth of the first child increased the frequency o  mothers’ contact with non-resident relatives, which is in line with buffering effect. However, contrary to our hypotheses, fathers of three children experienced erosion of relatives’ network and decreased availability of emotional support. We found mixed evidence that strong relationships with relatives improve parental life satisfaction. Parents with at least two children who had stronger relationships with relatives experienced more increase (and less decline) in life satisfaction during parenthood than those who had weaker relationships with relatives. However, 1 results concerning the first child is against our buffering effect hypothesis, with parents, especially mothers, experiencing higher level of satisfaction when the relatives network size, contact or support are low. Our additional analysis on this respect shows that this group is positively selected as to the pre-birth level of happiness. Our study suggests that support from relatives is a resource for parents having two or more children and that it improves the experience of parenthood even in relatively wealthy societies.

Copyright:

© the authors 2018. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) Creative Commons License