Family Ties and Aging in a Multiethnic Cohort

J Aging Health. 2020 Dec;32(10):1464-1474. doi: 10.1177/0898264320935238. Epub 2020 Jun 30.


Objective: Lack of social support is linked to lower cognitive function and cognitive decline. We investigated the effects of a specific type of social relationship, family ties, on cognitive trajectories in non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics. Methods: Using multiple-group latent growth curve models, we analyzed associations between the number of children/grandchildren/siblings/other relatives contacted within the past month at baseline and cognitive trajectories in 1420 older adults who were nondemented at baseline. Language, memory, and visuospatial abilities were assessed at baseline and at 18- and 24-month follow-ups for up to six visits. Inferential analyses assessed the differential effects of sex/gender and race/ethnicity for each family tie. Results: Independent of all covariates, contact with more relatives was associated with better initial memory (b = .01) and language functioning (b = .01) across race/ethnicity and sex/gender. Conclusion: The size of peripheral rather than immediate family networks may be more likely to affect cognitive function in older adults.

Keywords: longitudinal; race and ethnicity; sex/gender; social support; trajectories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / ethnology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Black People / psychology*
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / ethnology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Relations / ethnology*
  • Family Relations / psychology
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Support
  • White People / psychology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data