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Social Relationships in Later Life: The Role of Childhood Circumstances

  • Sarah Gibney

    (University College Dublin)

  • Mark E. McGovern

    (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies)

  • Erika Sabbath

    (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies)

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.

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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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Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201319.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 10 Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201319
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  1. James P. Smith, 2009. "Re-Constructing Childhood Health Histories," Working Papers 666, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  2. Mark E. Mcgovern, 2013. "Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight,Socio-economic Status and Outcomes at Age 9," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 44(1), pages 53–84.
  3. Mazzonna, Fabrizio, 2011. "The long-lasting effects of family background: A European cross-country comparison," MEA discussion paper series 11245, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
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  8. Daly, M. & Delaney, L., 2013. "The scarring effect of unemployment throughout adulthood on psychological distress at age 50: Estimates controlling for early adulthood distress and childhood psychological factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 19-23.
  9. Smith, James Patrick & Smith, Gillian C., 2010. "Long-term economic costs of psychological problems during childhood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 110-115, July.
  10. Berkman, Lisa F. & Glass, Thomas & Brissette, Ian & Seeman, Teresa E., 2000. "From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 843-857, September.
  11. Iris Kesternich & Bettina Siflinger & James P. Smith & Joachim K. Winter, 2014. "The Effects of World War II on Economic and Health Outcomes across Europe," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 103-118, March.
  12. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Heckman, James J. & Tremblay, Richard E., 2009. "Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-6, March.
  13. Delaney, Liam & McGovern, Mark E. & Smith, James P., 2009. "From Angela's Ashes to the Celtic Tiger: Early Life Conditions and Adult Health in Ireland," IZA Discussion Papers 4548, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
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  17. Delaney, Liam & Doyle, Orla, 2012. "Socioeconomic differences in early childhood time preferences," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 237-247.
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