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Over the life course, individuals have resources of different nature and in different amount (e.g. time, money, relations, human capital, personality traits) to engage in activities belonging to various domains of their life (family, employment, health, and leisure) and directed to life goals. Depending on the resources available, individuals reach different levels of economic, physical, psychological and social well-being (Diener & Fujita, 1995; Rojas, 2006).

Individuals’ resources are often limited and if drained by one life domain, they may hinder activities and well-being in another life domain. In this framework, an active research field is how individuals decide to allocate and distribute resources across life domains. Time is a typical example: increasing the time spent on work related activities, reduce the time available for leisure and family life with potential negative effects on life satisfaction and relation quality. However, resources may also be generated within one life domain and facilitate activities in other domains. For instance, following the household specialization theory of Becker (1991), the marriage brings a specialization and division of roles. The couple then will gain from this since one of the partners can free resources, time, from family life and invest them on labor market activities. When life domains compete for resources this may lead to negative spillovers across life domains; on the contrary, when resources are transferred across domains they may create positive spillovers effects (Bernardi, Bollmann, Potarca, & Rossier, 2017; Freund, Knecht, & Wiese, 2014; Hanappi, Ryser, Bernardi, & Le Goff, 2017; Roeters, Mandemakers, & Voorpostel, 2016).

Life hazards, events and transitions also increase or reduce available resources. For instance, changing job might increase the amount of economic resources available but at the same time reduce the time for leisure and family life activities. Experiencing multiple life events, either positive or negative, in a relatively short time span, may generate resources that complement each other. For instance, the resources gained or success in work and family relationships may positively impact each other (Huinink and Kohl, 2014).

Resources are not infinite and they cannot always be allocated as desired to reach a life goal. Some resources can be scarce (e.g. time, money). Activities pertaining to different domains may then compete for such resources, causing trade-offs (time for family or work or leisure, money for health or leisure). Such process potentially gives rise to different investment strategies in resources distribution across life domains and over time. Other types of resources, such as personality traits or human capital, are not finite, and may be used to sustain different activities across domains without producing trade-offs but rather being subsidiary of other resources.

Reserves are a special kind of resources, which are accumulated throughout the years and are activated as resources when facing critical events or demanding transitions.

Authors: Laura Bernardi, Danilo Bolano


Becker, G. S. (1991). A Treatise on the Family (Enlarged ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bernardi, L., Bollmann, G., Potarca, G., & Rossier, J. (2017). Multidimensionality of well-being and spillover effects across life domains: How do parenthood and personality affect changes in domain-specific satisfaction? Research in Human Development, 14(1), 26-51.
Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1995). Resources, personal strivings, and subjective well-being: a nomothetic and idiographic approach. Journal of personality and social psychology, 68(5), 926.
Freund, A. M., Knecht, M., & Wiese, B. S. (2014). Multidomain engagement and self-reported psychosomatic symptoms in middle-aged women and men. Gerontology, 60(3), 255–262.
Hanappi, D., Ryser, V. A., Bernardi, L., & Le Goff, J. M. (2017). Changes in Employment Uncertainty and the Fertility Intention–Realization Link: An Analysis Based on the Swiss Household Panel. European Journal of Population, 33(3), 381–407.
Huinink, J., & Kohli, M. (2014). A life-course approach to fertility. Demographic research, 30, 1293-1326.
Roeters, A., Mandemakers, J. J., & Voorpostel, M. (2016). Parenthood and Well-Being: The Moderating Role of Leisure and Paid Work. European Journal of Population, 32(3), 381–401.
Rojas, M. (2006). Life satisfaction and satisfaction in domains of life: Is it a simple relationship?. Journal of happiness studies, 7(4), 467-497.

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