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Title: The role of income and income status on well-being in parents and children
Author: Garratt Glass, Elisabeth Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 4958
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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The links between higher income inequality and lower well-being have been widely researched, but the individual-level mechanisms that are thought to underpin these associations lack a clearly specified theoretical basis. Specifically, whether income is relevant to well-being primarily by capturing material resources or psychosocial status has not been unambiguously determined. In this thesis these individual-level mechanisms are examined in relation to psychological distress in parents and behavioural problems in children in a large, nationally representative UK sample. Two key pathways are examined: first, individual-level income status comparisons, and second, the role of inequity in workplace rewards. The first pathway – individual-level income status comparisons – is explored by examining the associations between absolute income, distance from the regional mean income, regional income rank and parents’ psychological distress (Study 1, research question 1) and children’s behavioural problems (Study 2, research question 2). Specifically, these studies examine rank theory, which states that people are sensitive to their ordinal income position due to an evolutionary-based cognitive capability. Income rank has previously been associated with adults’ well-being, but rank theory has never been examined in children. In parents and children, material and psychosocial mechanisms were both associated with well-being: higher absolute incomes were associated with improved well-being at all incomes, while higher rank was only beneficial to well-being at higher incomes. Status differences therefore appear to be more salient to parents and children living in higher-income households. These associations were also replicated for children’s internalising and externalising behaviours. The possibility that income interacts with measures of socioeconomic disadvantage in its associations with well-being is also explored (research question 3), identifying both reinforcing and mitigating effects of socioeconomic disadvantages. These studies provide the most rigorous examination of rank theory in adults to date, and also offer the first evidence that psychosocial mechanisms contribute to children’s well-being. The second pathway – inequity in workplace rewards – is explored in relation to parents’ psychological distress and overall health (Study 3, research question 4) and children’s behavioural problems (Study 4, research question 5). Workplace inequity is associated with impaired well-being in employees, but objectively defined measures of workplace inequity have been neglected despite their potential methodological advantages. The potential relevance of parents’ workplace inequity to children’s well-being has also never been examined. Using a definition of workplace inequity based on wages and occupational social class, under-rewarded parents had a higher likelihood of poor overall health and higher psychological distress, while over-rewarded parents had a lower likelihood of poor overall health. Behavioural problems were lower in children of over-rewarded fathers, but behavioural problems were not associated with fathers’ workplace under-rewards, nor with mothers’ workplace rewards. Objectively measured experiences of workplace inequity are therefore relevant to well-being in parents and children. These results highlight that income status – whether defined as income rank or inequity in workplace rewards – is associated with well-being in parents and children. Policy interventions should focus on increasing absolute incomes, addressing multiple socioeconomic disadvantages and considering the wider issues of status comparisons and their negative associations with well-being.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available