In regions in Western Europe around 2000

Gaël Brulé and Ruut Veenhoven
Advances in Applied Sociology, 2014, 4: 271-288, http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aasoci.2014.412031 Open Access

Research on the relation between family and happiness has focused on the micro level and considered the effects of an individual’s place in the family system, such as whether or not one is married and exchange of support with kin. Macro level differences in the family system as such have received little attention as yet. In this paper we consider regional differences in family types in Europe and explore the relationship with average happiness. Data on dominant family type in regions are taken from Todd (1990), who distinguishes five family types: 1) absolute nuclear, 2) egalitarian nuclear, 3) communitarian, 4) stem family, and 5) incomplete stem family. Data on average happiness in regions are taken from the Eurobarometer surveys. Average happiness appears to be highest in regions where family pattern of ‘absolute nuclear’ prevails and lowest in the regions where ‘egalitarian nuclear’ family dominates. Control for economic prosperity in regions does not change this picture. A possible interpretation of these findings is that freedom adds more to happiness than equality does. It is not true for types of freedom. If horizontal freedom (intergenerational freedom) seems to be important in terms of well-being, the results are much less convincing as far as vertical freedom (intergenerational freedom) is concerned. The findings might have some far reach contribution in the field of family policy.

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