Family care leave policy, including maternity, parental, and childcare leave, has a significant influence on the critical months of a child's life and consequentially an influence on long-term outcomes as well. Guided by research on parent-infant attachment and bonding as well as the theories of Ainsworth (1979, 1991) and Bowlby (1946, 1951) regarding parent and child interaction and long-term wellbeing, this paper examined differences in family care leave policy in relation to self-reported wellbeing indicators of health, income, happiness and life-satisfaction for birth-cohorts in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Independent variables included weeks of maternity leave, parental leave, childcare leave, and paid leave. Control variables included age, education, birth year, survey year, country, and gender. The main goal of this research was to address a gap in family care policy by determining how family care leave policies are correlated with long-term self-reported wellbeing outcomes of health, income, happiness, and life satisfaction for birth cohorts born between 1960–1987 in the selected European countries.
The findings illustrate the importance of analyzing family care leave using the detailed variables of the policy, maternity, parental, and childcare leave, separately rather than the combined totals of family care leave. Paid maternity leave as well as paid and unpaid parental leave increased long-term health outcomes. There was a reciprocal positive relationship between health, life satisfaction, and income that created a positive wellbeing spiral. Both unpaid childcare leave and paid parental leave were negatively correlated with income level. Unpaid childcare leave was also negatively correlated with life satisfaction. Unpaid maternity leave and paid childcare leave were not correlated with health, income, happiness, or life satisfaction. As leaders consider changes and modifications to current family care leave policy, it is critical to consider the positive and negative impacts that policies have on long-term wellbeing outcomes. Although these findings are important for leaders and policy makers, it is also paramount that taxpayers, employers, and parents understand the importance of family care leave policy as the earliest intervention and a proactive method of improving the human condition by supporting infants and families.