Child Indicators Research

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 2189–2202 | Cite as

Well-Being Contagion in the Family: Transmission of Happiness and Distress Between Parents and Children

  • Peilian ChiEmail author
  • Hongfei DuEmail author
  • Ronnel B. King
  • Nan Zhou
  • Hongjian Cao
  • Xiuyun Lin


Psychological well-being is contagious within families. However, two key issues remain unresolved: a) which type of well-being is transmitted and b) who transmits to whom The present study aims to answer these two questions by drawing on a longitudinal and nationally representative sample to examine a) whether both positive and negative aspects of well-being can be transmitted and b) whether both parents and children transmit well-being to each other. Analyses were conducted using the China Family Panel Studies data in 2010 (2971 adolescents and their parents) and 2014. Cross-lagged analysis showed that the positive aspect of well-being (i.e., subjective well-being, SWB) was almost fully transmitted among all family members. In contrast, the negative aspect of well-being (i.e., psychological distress, PD) was transmitted only from fathers to mothers and from fathers to adolescent children. A gender-specific effect emerged such that sons rather than daughters predicted fathers’ SWB. Well-being contagion in families was more robust for the positive aspect of well-being. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


Contagion Family Subjective well-being Psychological distress 



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC31600911, NSFC31700972) and Guangzhou University (69-18ZX10079).


The data are from China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), funded by 985 Program of Peking University and carried out by the Institute of Social Science Survey of Peking University.

Supplementary material

12187_2019_9636_MOESM1_ESM.docx (219 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 219 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of MacauMacauChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGuangzhou UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Social and Health Psychology Research CenterGuangzhou UniversityGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.Department of Curriculum and InstructionThe Education University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  5. 5.Faculty of EducationBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  6. 6.Faculty of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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