Volume 34 - Article 34 | Pages 943–994  

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

By Małgorzata Mikucka, Ester Rizzi


Background: Strong relationships with relatives may alleviate the consequences of stressful experiences, but the evidence documenting such ‘buffering effect’ during parenthood is scarce.

Objective: This paper investigated the buffering effect of relationships with relatives during parenthood in Switzerland. We tested whether relationships with relatives (network size, frequency of contact, and availability of practical and emotional support) were activated in response to parenthood, and if people who had stronger relationships with their relatives experienced more positive trajectories of life satisfaction during parenthood.

Methods: We used Swiss Household Panel data for the years 2000–2011, and fixed effect regression models.

Results: The birth of a first child was associated with an increase in mothers’ contact with nonresident relatives. Moreover, parents with at least two children who had better access to support from relatives experienced more increase and less decline in life satisfaction during parenthood than parents who had less access to relatives’ support.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that the support of relatives is a resource for parents having two or more children and that it improves the experience of parenthood even in a relatively wealthy society.

Contribution: This is the first paper which demonstrates that relationships with relatives are a source of heterogeneity of the effect of parenthood on life satisfaction. Moreover, it shows that weak relationships with relatives may lower life satisfaction of parents and limit fertility, especially at higher parities.

Author's Affiliation

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