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Childhood Socioeconomic Position, Adult Educational Attainment and Health Behaviors: The Role of Psychological Capital and Health Literacy


  • Karlijn Massar

    (Department of Work & Social Psychology, Faculty of Psychology & Neuroscience, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands)

  • Natalie Kopplin

    (CP Consultingpartner AG, Venloer Straße 53, 50672 Cologne, Germany)

  • Karen Schelleman-Offermans

    (Department of Work & Social Psychology, Faculty of Psychology & Neuroscience, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands)


Socioeconomic circumstances during childhood and adulthood are known to negatively affect health promoting behaviors. On the other hand, psychological capital (PsyCap) and health literacy are positively associated with these lifestyle behaviors. We, therefore, reasoned that PsyCap and health literacy might “buffer” the negative influences of socioeconomic circumstances on health-promoting behaviors. Method: We measured subjective childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) and adult educational attainment (as a proxy for adult socioeconomic circumstances), health literacy, PsyCap, and health behaviors (fruits and vegetables consumption, exercise, and sweets and cookies consumption) in a sample of N = 150 individuals (mean age 34.98 years, 66.7% female). Results: Bootstrapped mediation analyses including PsyCap and health literacy as parallel mediators revealed that: (I) The relationship between childhood SEP and (a) fruits and vegetables consumption and (b) exercise was mediated by PsyCap, and (II) the relationship between adult educational attainment and (a) fruits and vegetables consumption and (b) exercise was mediated by PsyCap and health literacy. We found no significant effects for consumption of sweets and cookies. Conclusion: These results suggest that larger studies are warranted that confirm the potential of PsyCap and health literacy in mitigating the negative effects of lower SEP on health behaviors and health outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlijn Massar & Natalie Kopplin & Karen Schelleman-Offermans, 2021. "Childhood Socioeconomic Position, Adult Educational Attainment and Health Behaviors: The Role of Psychological Capital and Health Literacy," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(17), pages 1-10, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jijerp:v:18:y:2021:i:17:p:9399-:d:629954

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timo Lorenz & Clemens Beer & Jan Pütz & Kathrin Heinitz, 2016. "Measuring Psychological Capital: Construction and Validation of the Compound PsyCap Scale (CPC-12)," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(4), pages 1-17, April.
    2. Chaparro, M.P. & Koupil, Ilona, 2014. "The impact of parental educational trajectories on their adult offspring's overweight/obesity status: A study of three generations of Swedish men and women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 199-207.
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    5. Karen Schelleman-Offermans & Karlijn Massar, 2020. "Explaining socioeconomic inequalities in self-reported health outcomes: The mediating role of perceived life stress, financial self-reliance, psychological capital, and time perspective orientations," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(12), pages 1-21, December.
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    1. Duan, Jinyun & Ren, Xiaoyun & Liu, Zhengguang & Riggio, Ronald E., 2022. "Connecting the dots: How parental and current socioeconomic status shape individuals’ transformational leadership," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 51-58.

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