New research suggests distinct but complementary roles for mothers and fathers in married and family life.

According to the research, a mother’s happiness is nearly twice as important as a father’s when it comes to family life and the chances of the couple staying together, according to a study by the UK’s Marriage Foundation.

The findings are based on the organisation’s analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked 13,000 married and cohabiting couples, starting nine months after the birth of their child in 2000-1. They were interviewed again when the child was 14.

It found that if a mother was happy, she was more likely to have children who remained mentally well; more likely to remain close to her daughters when they were teenagers; and more likely to have a stable relationship with her partner. A father’s happiness had no bearing on his offspring’s mental health.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation, which conducted the study with Lincoln University, said: “Despite all the social changes of the last 50 years, whether we like it or not, there is an ingredient for keeping the whole family happy, which is only available from the mother or mother figure.”