Family, Work, and Spatial Mobility: The Influence of Commuting on the Subjective Well-Being of Couples

  • Ana BrömmelhausEmail author
  • Michael Feldhaus
  • Monika Schlegel


Previous research shows that commuting is often accompanied by increased stress, exhaustion and less time for partners and children. On the basis of the life course approach and work-life balance theory, we argue that these negative outcomes also influence the dynamics of the social relationships of individuals who live together in the same household. Most research has focused on the commuter, whereas less is known regarding how commuting affects the subjective well-being of other household members, in this case, the partner. Our paper contributes to this research gap by analysing the interdependencies of parents who commute in regard to their overall and domain-specific well-being. We use pooled data from three waves of the German Family Panel, which includes standardised information related to working conditions and job-related mobility as well as family dynamics from both parents’ perspectives. The resulting subsample has N = 2443 dyads in families. Our dyadic analysis shows negative spillover effects of commuting times on all included measures of subjective well-being, but only for mothers. Moreover, there are two crossover effects: a negative crossover effect from mothers commuting on fathers’ satisfaction with family life and a positive crossover effect of fathers commuting on mothers’ satisfaction with social contacts outside the family (i.e. friends). Overall, the findings indicate that mothers own commuting works as a more general burden, whereas fathers seem to suffer more from their partner’s commuting time than vice versa.


Well-being Commuting Dyadic analysis Crossover effects Spillover effects 



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© The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social SciencesCarl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg Faculty IOldenburgGermany

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