The Institute for Social and Economic Research is conducting a study to examine various the effects of various factors on familial happiness. So far the study has indicated that children's satisfaction with their family situations is closely related to whether their parents', and especially their mothers, are happy.
Though results are preliminary, they indicate that parents who avoid divorce and "stay together for the kids" may not being doing any favors for their children, especially when the mother is unhappy with her marital relationship.
The study, which is following 40,000 households, is ongoing. It surveys individuals between the age of 10 and 15, asking them to what degree they're satisfied with their lives. Early results from the study show that 60% of the young people surveyed reported being "completely satisfied" with their current family situations. 55% of those whose mothers said they were unhappy said the same, while 73% of those whose mothers reported being "perfectly happy" with their family relationships also reported total satisfaction.
The research also investigated relationships between parents and children. Early indications show that children are usually happiest when they are not engaged in regular arguments with their parents, and where the parent's are satisfied in the romantic relationships. While this sounds like very common sense it can be difficult for many individuals to objectively view the dynamics within their own family.
Interestingly, the study indicates that having an older sibling or siblings has little effect on a child's happiness, while having younger siblings (and especially several of them) can reduce levels of satisfaction.
Still, it seems that parent-child relationships have more of an effect on happiness than sibling relationships. A meager 28% of surveyed children said that they were "completely happy" when they argue more than one time each week with their parents and fail to discuss important matters.
Source: Science Daily "Mum's the Word When It Comes to Children's Happiness" April 10, 2011