Parenthood and dynamics of life satisfaction in times of COVID-19

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

February 28, 2023


We analyze data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, including a pre-pandemic baseline and seven survey waves between May 2020 and September 2021. Fixed effects panel regression models are run over more than 11,000 individuals, distinguishing among women and men with young children (<5 years), older children (5–15 years), or no children in the household. We hypothesize that declines in life satisfaction during the first lockdown are sharper among parents, whose domestic demands increase, than among the childless. We develop competing hypotheses that parents might be resilient and have higher life satisfaction during the later phases of the pandemic (Adaptation Hypothesis) or that the pandemic stressors accumulate, leading to even lower satisfaction over time (Accumulation Hypothesis). The results only support the Accumulation Hypothesis among mothers. Whereas mothers fared comparatively well during the first lockdown, further pandemic stressors have seemingly exhausted their resilience, leading to stronger declines during the winter 2020/2021 lockdown. Among men with older children and without children, life satisfaction decreased during the first and subsequent lockdowns. Men with young children were the only group with almost unchanged life satisfaction throughout the pandemic.

Published in

British Journal of Sociology






Open Access

© 2023 The Authors. The British Journal of Sociology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of London School of Economics and Political Science.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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