Through a Dark Lens: Effects of Depressed Mood on Perceived Equity in Intergenerational Relationships


  • Homepage: The author shall share all data and coding for replication purposes. The data used in this article were funded by grant 480–10-009 from the Major Investments Fund of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and by the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam and Tilburg University.

Direct correspondence to Matthijs Kalmijn, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185, 1012 DK Amsterdam 〈〉.



Many studies have examined how equity in personal relationships affects mental health and well-being. Often, such studies use measures based on how people perceive the balance in a relationship. In this study, the reverse causal path is studied, from well-being to perceived equity. The expectation is that depressed mood would lead to more negative views of the degree of equity in a relationship.


The reciprocal relationships between depressive symptoms and perceived equity are studied using a large representative survey with two waves of measurement. The focus is on intergenerational relationships and the perspective taken is that of the elderly parent.


Analyses show that there is little effect of equity on depressed mood once this is analyzed in a longitudinal fashion. More evidence is obtained for the reverse path: mothers (but not fathers) who are depressed develop a more negative view of the degree of equity in the relationships they have with their children, even when reports of actual support exchange are taken into account.


Depressed mood can bias perceptions of equity. In a more general way, the findings are in line with some recent experimental studies that have emphasized the importance of feelings for perceptions.