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Adult children's education and trajectories of episodic memory among older parents in the United States of America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2021

Manacy Pai
Department of Sociology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA
Wentian Lu
Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
Baowen Xue*
Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:


The purpose of this study is to assess the relationship between adult children's education and older parents’ cognitive health, and the extent to which this relationship is moderated by parents’ own socio-economic and marital statuses. Data using Waves 5 (2000) to 13 (2016) are drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative panel survey of individuals age 50 and above in the United States of America (USA). Older parents’ cognitive functioning is measured using episodic memory from Waves 5–13. Adult children's education is measured using years of schooling, on average, for all adult children of a respondent. Analyses based on multilevel linear growth curve modelling reveal that parents with well-educated adult children report higher memory score over time compared to their counterparts whose children are not as well-educated. We also find that the positive effect of children's education on parents’ cognitive health is moderated by parents’ own education, though not by their income, occupation or marital status. Our work contributes to the growing body of research on the ‘upward’ flow of resources model that assesses the ways in which personal and social assets of the younger generation shape the health and wellbeing of the older generation. Our findings are particularly relevant to the USA given the enduring linkage between socio-economic status and health, and the limited social and economic protection for those of lower social status.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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