The effect of social relations with children on the education-health link in men and women aged 40 and over

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Mar;56(5):949-60. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00099-0.


Accumulated evidence demonstrates a strong relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and health. Our examination of this relationship focuses on education, an established indicator of SES, and tests whether social relations, particularly with children, mediate and/or moderate the education-health link for middle-aged and older parents. The data are drawn from a regionally representative sample of adults (aged 40-93) in the Detroit area, USA. All analyses are stratified by gender (N=males: 330; females: 468). A series of multiple regression analyses were performed to test whether social relations mediate the association between education and health. Although analyses revealed no mediation effect, both men and women with less education were found to have smaller social networks. Women with more education confided less in their children than women with less education did. A series of hierarchical regression analyses were performed to test whether social relations variables moderate the relationship between education and health. Separate analyses by gender indicated that men, but not women, with less education who had larger networks and who perceived emotional, financial and sick care support to be available from a child had lower scores on a health problems index. Findings indicate that the health of lower-educated men in the presence of key social supports parallels the advantaged health status of men with higher levels of education. These findings suggest that social relationships may be a protective factor for the health of men in the lower socioeconomic strata.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Social Support*