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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 Smith, 2005. "The Impact of Childhood Health on Adult Labor Market Outcomes," Labor and Demography 0511001, EconWPA.
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