Intergenerational Relationships and Sleep in Aging Families

TitleIntergenerational Relationships and Sleep in Aging Families
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsWang, H
Academic DepartmentGerontology
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
UniversityUniversity of Massachusetts, Boston
Keywordsinsomnia, Parent-Child Relations, Sleep

Sleep is a fundamental health behavior that has implications for physical and psychological well-being across the life course. As people age, they have increased concerns about sleep. This dissertation comprises three studies that provide complementary perspectives on how intergenerational relationships are associated with sleep for older adults.

Using 2006, 2010, and 2014 waves data of the Health and Retirement Study, Study 1 examined the bidirectional link between parent-child relationship quality and insomnia among U.S. older adults (N = 3,567). Results from autoregressive cross-lagged panel models showed that negative parent-child relationship quality at earlier waves was indirectly associated with older parents’ insomnia in later waves through depressive symptoms. Older parents’ insomnia at earlier waves was related to more depressive symptoms in later waves, which further led to more strained parent-child relationship quality.

Study 2 investigated the psychological mechanisms linking parent-child relationships and sleep among U.S. older adults. This study used self-reported sleep quality and actigraph-measured sleep characteristics from the second wave of the National Social Life, Health, and Project (N = 548). Results from structural equation modeling showed that parents’ closeness with their children was associated with better objective sleep characteristics, and more frequent contact with their children was related to fewer insomnia symptoms. Moreover, less closeness with children was related to more insomnia via depressive symptoms among older adults.

Study 3 drew data from the 2014 China Longitudinal Ageing Social Survey and analyzed older parents’ (N = 8,450) reports on their sleep quality and relationships with each of their children. Results from logistic regression models showed that living alone, greater variation in children’s financial transfers and emotional closeness, and more instrumental support from children were associated with higher risk of sleep difficulty for Chinese older parents with multiple children. Greater instrumental support from offspring was associated with a higher risk of sleep difficulty for parents from one-child families.

Focusing on an increasingly important public health issue, this research adds to the scientific knowledge of how intergenerational relationships are associated with sleep in later life. Findings from three studies highlights the importance of parent-child relationships for sleep health in multigenerational families.

Citation Key10925