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Life Course Changes of Children and Well-being of Parents


Department of Sociology, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University, P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands (


How do children's life course transitions affect the well-being of their parents? Using a large panel survey among parents with longitudinal information on 2 randomly chosen children, the authors analyzed the effects of children's union formation, parenthood, and union dissolution on changes in depressive symptoms of parents. Negative effects were found for children's divorce, and positive effects were found for children's marriage and parenthood. Mothers suffered more from a child's divorce or separation than fathers. Effects depended in part on the parent's traditional family norms, pointing to a normative explanation of life course effects. Little evidence was found for explanations in terms of altruism or selfish motivations. In a more general sense, this article supports the notion of linked lives suggested by the life course perspective. This research provides stronger support for this notion than the few previous studies that have examined it.