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Social Relationships in Later Life: The Role of Childhood Circumstances

Author

Listed:
  • Sarah Gibney

    (University College Dublin)

  • Mark E. McGovern

    (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies)

  • Erika Sabbath

    (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies)

Abstract

Social relationships predict health and emotional wellbeing across the life course. However, it is not known whether gradients in social engagement, social network size or quality in later life mirror socio-economic and health gradients in childhood. This study investigates the long-term impact of childhood circumstances on social relationships. Data are from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe; a panel survey of people aged 50+. Current social network attributes (size, satisfaction and emotional closeness) and retrospective life history data on childhood health, cognition, SES, and parental characteristics are utilized. Regression analysis indicates that childhood circumstances predict social network attributes in later life. Emotional closeness partly mediates the relationship between childhood circumstances and social network satisfaction. A strong but differential association between aspects of childhood circumstance and social network attributes was evident. Therefore we critique the index measurement approach which conflates diverse pathways linking childhood and late-life outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah Gibney & Mark E. McGovern & Erika Sabbath, 2013. "Social Relationships in Later Life: The Role of Childhood Circumstances," Working Papers 201319, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201319
    as

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    File URL: http://www.ucd.ie/geary/static/publications/workingpapers/gearywp201319.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2013
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social relationships; Ageing; Europe; Childhood conditions; Life course;

    JEL classification:

    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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