Skip to main content
×
Home

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

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

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.

RÉSUMÉ

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.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Adams R.G. 1989. Conceptual and methodological issues in studying friendships of older adults. In Adams Rebecca G. & Blieszner Rosemary (Eds.), Older Adult Friendship: Structure and Process. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Antonucci T.C. 1990. Social supports and social relationships. In Binstock Robert H. & George Linda K. (Eds.), Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences (3rd ed.) (pp. 205226). Toronto: Academic Press.
Atkinson T. 1980. Public perceptions on the quality of life. In Perspective Canada III (pp. 277292). Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services.
Bachrach C.A. 1980. Childlessness and social isolation among the elderly. Journal of Marriage and the Family, August, 627637.
Bradburn N.M. 1969. The Structure of Psychological Well-Being. Chicago: Aldine.
Broadhead E.W., Kaplan B.H., James S.A., Wagner E.H., Schoenbach V.J., Grim-son R., Heyden S., Tibblin G., & Gehlbach S.H. 1983. The epidemiologic evidence for a relationship between social support and health. American Journal of Epidemiology, 117, 521537.
Chapman N.J. 1989. Gender, marital status, and childlessness of older persons and the availability of informal assistance. In Petersen M.D. & White D.L. (Eds.), Health Care of the Elderly: An Information Source-book (pp. 277328). New-bury Park: Sage.
Cicirelli V. 1981. Kin relationships of childless and one-child elderly in relation to social services. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 4, 1933.
Cobb S. 1976. Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38, 300314.
Connidis I., & Davies L. 1990. Confidants and companions in later life: the place of families and friends. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 45(4), S141–S149.
Connidis I.A. 1989. Family Ties and Aging. Toronto: Butterworths.
Connidis I.A., & McMullin J.A. 1992. Getting out of the house: the effect of parent status on social participation and companionship in later life. Canadian Journal on Aging, 11(4), 370386.
Connidis I.A., & McMullin J.A. 1993. To have or have not: the effect of parent status on the subjective well-being of older adults. The Gerontologist, 5, 630636.
Connidis I.A., & McMullin J.A. 1994. Social support in older age: assessing the impact of marital and parent status. Canadian Journal on Aging, 13(4), 510527.
Crohan S.E., & Antonucci T.C. 1989. Friends as a source of social support in old age. In Adams Rebecca G. & Blieszner Rosemary (Eds.), Older Adult Friendship: Structure and Process (pp. 129146). Newbury Park: Sage.
Day A.T. 1987. Family support of the elderly: survey design and policy implications. Paper presented to the European Population Conference. Jyraskyla, Finland, June.
Dean A., Kolody B., & Wood P. 1990. Effects of social support from various sources on depression in elderly persons. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31, 148161.
DeWit D.J., Wister A.V. & Burch T.K. 1988. Physical distance and social contact between elders and their adult children. Research on Aging, 10, 5680.
Dowd J., & Larossa R. 1982. Primary group contact and elderly morale: an exchange/power analysis. Sociology and Social Research, 66, 184197.
House J., Landis S.K.R., & Umberson D. 1988. Social relationships and health. Science, 241, 540545.
Johnson C.L., & Catalano D.J. 1981. Childless elderly and their family supports. The Gerontologist, 21, 610618.
Keith P. 1983. Patterns of assistance among parents and the childless in very old age: implications for practice. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 6, 4959.
Kessler R.C., & McLeod J.D. 1984. Sex differences in vulnerability to undesirable life events. American Sociological Review, 49, 620631.
Kivett V.R., & Learner M.R. 1980. Perspectives on the childless rural elderly: a comparative analysis. The Gerontologist, 20, 5966.
Kozma A., Stones M.J., & McNeil J.K. 1991. Psychological Well-Being in Later Life. Markham: Butterworths.
Krause N. 1986. Social support, stress, and well-being among older adults. Journal of Gerontology, 41, 512519.
Landreville P., & Cappeliez P. 1992. Soutien social et symptômes dépressifs au sein des personnes âgées. La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, 11(A), 322346.
Larson R. 1978. Thirty years of research on the subjective well-being of older Americans. Journal of Gerontology, 33, 109125.
Lee G.R., & Ishii-Kuntz M. 1987. Social interaction, loneliness and emotional well-being among the elderly. Research on Aging, 9, 459482.
Litwak E. 1985. Helping the Elderly: The Complementary Roles of Informal Networks and Formal Systems. New York: The Guilford Press.
Marshall V.W. 1987. Factors affecting response and completion rates in some Canadian studies. Canadian Journal on Aging, 6(3), 217227.
Marshall V.W., McMullin J.A., Ballantyne P.J., Daciuk J.F., & Widgor B.T. 1995. Contributions to Independence Over the Adult Life Course. Toronto: Centre for Studies of Aging, University of Toronto.
McLeod J.D., & Kessler R.C. 1990. Socioeconomic status differences in vulnerability to undesirable life events. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31, 162172.
Mirowsky J., & Ross C.E. 1986. Social patterns of distress. American Review of Sociology, 12, 23–15.
Morgan D.L. 1988. Age differences in social network participation. The Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 43, S129–S137.
Mullins L.C., & Dugan E. 1990. The influence of depression and family and friendship relations on residents' loneliness in congregate housing. The Gerontologist, 30, 377384.
Mutran E., & Reitzes D.C. 1984. Intergenerational support activities and well-being among the elderly: a convergence of exchange and symbolic interaction perspectives. American Sociological Review, 49, 117130.
Nett E. 1984. The family and aging. In Baker Maureen (Ed.), The Family: Changing Trends in Canada. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.
Pearlin L.I. 1989. The sociological study of stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 241256.
Pearlin L.I., Lieberman M.A., Menaghan E.G., & Mullan J.T. 1981. The stress process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 337356.
Rempel J. 1985. Childless elderly: what are they missing? Journal of Marriage and the Family, May, 343348.
Strain L.A., & Chappell N.L. 1982. Confidants: do they make a difference in quality of life? Research on Aging, 4, 479502.
Turner R.J. 1983. Direct, indirect, and moderating effects of social support on psychological distress and associated conditions. In Kaplan Howard B. (Ed.), Psychosocial Stress: Trends in Theory and Research (pp. 105146). New York: Academic Press.
Turner R.J., & Avison W.R. 1989. Gender and depression: assessing exposure and vulnerability to life events in a chronically strained population. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 443455.
Verbrugge L.M. 1979. Marital status and health. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 267285.
Ward R.A., Sherman S.R., & Lagory M. 1984. Subjective network assessments and subjective well-being. Journal of Gerontology, 39, 92101.
Willits F.K., & Crider D.M. 1988. Health rating and life satisfaction in the later middle years. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 43, S172S176.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

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
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 11 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 136 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.