Parental warmth and flourishing in mid-life

Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jan:220:65-72. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.10.026. Epub 2018 Oct 30.


Objective: This study examined the longitudinal association between parental warmth and offspring flourishing in mid-life. We also considered associations between parental warmth and a number of mental health problems and adverse health behavioral outcomes.

Method: Longitudinal data from the Midlife in the United States Study (N = 3,929, mean baseline age = 47.4 years) were analyzed using generalized estimating equations. Parental warmth in childhood was recalled at phase I (1995-1996), while flourishing and other outcomes were self-reported at phase II (2004-2006). Following an approach developed by Keyes, flourishing was operationalized as a combined measure incorporating assessments of three aspects of well-being, including emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Results: The results suggest that parental warmth was positively associated with the continuous score of flourishing (B = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.18, 0.25). The association was not specific to any particular component (emotional, psychological, or social well-being) or subdomain of flourishing. Parental warmth was also inversely associated with several adverse health behavior outcomes such as drug use and smoking.

Conclusions: Parental warmth in childhood may help promote offspring functioning across multiple domains of well-being in mid-life. The findings help to strengthen the call for a public health focus on the importance of parenting for outcomes beyond childhood and well into adulthood, and suggest the value of targeting parenting practices for prevention and intervention strategies to improve population health and well-being.

Keywords: Flourishing; Health assets; Life course; Parental warmth; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology