Relationship Quality with Adult Children: Gender and Cognitive Limitations Among Older Adults

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Patricia THOMAS, Purdue University, USA
Debra UMBERSON, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Objectives: Increasing risk for cognitive limitations at older ages along with a growing population of older adults presents critical challenges for caregiving families and health care systems. These challenges urgently call for research examining factors that may protect against or exacerbate cognitive limitations among older adults. We examine the impact of adult child-parent relationship quality, a feature of the social environment known to affect physical and mental health and may also influence the cognitive health of older parents.

Methods: Using nationally representative panel data from the Americans’ Changing Lives survey (N=1,408), we analyzed the impact of both positive and negative dimensions of adult child-parent relationship quality on trajectories of older parents’ cognitive limitations as they aged.

Results: Higher levels of strain with adult children were linked to steeper increases in cognitive limitations as mothers aged, but relationship strain with adult children appeared to be protective against cognitive decline for fathers.

Discussion: Older women are already at greater risk for cognitive limitations than men, and relationship strain with adult children may exacerbate cognitive decline for women. These findings point to the importance of taking gender into account when studying how positive and negative aspects of close social relationships affect older adults.