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Family, Friends, Stress, and Well-being: Does Childlessness Make a Difference?*

  • Julie Ann McMullin (a1) and Victor W. Marshall (a2)

Data from the Survey on Ageing and Independence are employed to test the relationship between stress, integration in close family and friend networks, and well-being with a particular emphasis on parent status. The dependent variables used in this analysis are, whether individuals have a close family member or a close friend, the number of reported close relatives and friends, life stress, and the affect balance scale. It is hypothesized that the zero order relationship often found between parent status and well-being may be due to (1) a fundamental difference in the social support experiences of older parents and older childless individuals, (2) different levels of stress among these groups, or (3) the potential of friends to be of greater importance in assuring well-being in older age than family. Results show that childless persons are less likely than parents to have at least one close family member and they have fewer close relatives. No parent status differences are found regarding the likelihood of having a close friend or in the number of close friends individuals have. Compared to parents, childless individuals experience less life stress and similar levels of well-being. Finally, the nature of the stress-support-well-being relationship appears to be the same regardless of parent status.

À partir de données de l'Enquête sur le vieillissement et l'autonomie, on a examiné la relation entre le stress, l'intégration à la famille immédiate et à un réseau d'amis et le bien-être en insistent sur le statut de parent. Les variables dépendantes de l'analyse sont: le fait que le sujet ait un membre de la famille qui lui soit proche ou un ami proche, le nombre d'amis proches cité, le stress et enfin l'échelle d'équilibre affectif. Une hypothèse présume que la relation d'ordre zéro souvent relevée entre le fait d'être parent et le bien-être reposerait peut-être sur 1) une différence fondamentale entre les expériences de soutien social vécues par les aînés qui sont parents et ceux qui ne le sont pas; 2) des niveaux de stress différents entre les deux groupes ou 3) le potentiel plus important de bien-être apporté par un ami que par un parent dans les dernières années de la vie. Les résultats indiquent que les personnes sans enfants sont moins susceptibles d'etre proche d'au moins un membre de leur famille et que moins de membres de leur famille leur sont proches. On n'a pas relevé de différences chez les personnes ayant des enfants quant à la possiblité d'avoir un ami proche ni sur le nombre d'amis proches. Comparativement aux parents, les gens sans enfants subissent moins de stress et expérimentent le mêrae niveau de bien-être. Enfin, dans les deux cas, la nature des relations de soutien en cas de stress et de bien-être semble la même.

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
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