Childlessness and the Psychological Well-being of Older Persons

TitleChildlessness and the Psychological Well-being of Older Persons
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsZhang, Z, Hayward, MD
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences
Call Numberpubs_2001_Zhang_ZJGSeriesB.pdf
KeywordsAdult children, Demographics, Health Conditions and Status, Methodology, Risk Taking

OBJECTIVES: Rapid growth in the size of the childless elderly population has prompted concerns about the negative effects of childlessness on psychological well-being. This study adds to this line of inquiry by examining the effects of childlessness on two important dimensions of elderly persons' psychological well-being: loneliness and depression. METHODS: Using the 1993 Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old data set, the authors estimated logistic and ordinary least squares regression models of psychological well-being for a nationally representative sample of people aged 70 and older (N = 6,517). RESULTS: Childlessness per se did not significantly increase the prevalence of loneliness and depression at advanced ages, net of other factors. There also was no statistical evidence for the hypothesis that childlessness increases loneliness and depression for divorced, widowed, and never married elderly persons. Sex, however, altered how childlessness and marital status influenced psychological well-being. Divorced, widowed, and never married men who were childless had significantly higher rates of loneliness compared with women in comparable circumstances; divorced and widowed men who were childless also had significantly higher rates of depression than divorced and widowed women. DISCUSSION: The findings suggest that it is important to understand the consequences of childlessness in the context of marital status and sex.

Endnote Keywords

Aged, 80 and Over/Depression/Family Planning/Gender/Geriatric Assessment/Loneliness/Marital Status/Risk Factors/Sex Factors/Support, U.S. Government--PHS

Endnote ID


Citation Key6748