Like a Black Swan. Non-Standard Family Trajectories and Subjective Wellbeing at Older Ages

Jordi Gumà, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Bruno Arpino, Pompeu Fabra University
Albert Julià, Barcelona University

An increasing body of research has focused on the interplay between fertility and life satisfaction. A lot of research efforts have also been devoted to understanding the relationship between other demographic events, such as marriage, and subjective wellbeing. Whereas the majority of this research takes adult population as its target, less is known about the effect of past family trajectories on subjective wellbeing of older people.

In this paper we assess how different patterns of family trajectories can affect subjective wellbeing of older people in Europe. We also study the role of the level of adherence of individual trajectories to normative (most frequent) family trajectories. We hypothesize that those individuals who experienced non-standard trajectories accumulated stress and negative feelings throughout their life course which could exert negative long-term influence on their subjective wellbeing.

We apply sequence analysis and optimal matching on retrospective data from the third wave of the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARELIFE) to calculate distances between individual family trajectories and normative trajectories, defined by representative (medoid) trajectories by sex, birth cohort and geographical area. Subsequently, we estimate linear regression models to assess the association between deviations from normative trajectories and older people''s subjective wellbeing.


Presented in Session 1134: Life Course