This article reviews and presents research findings on the relationships between parenthood and health over the life span. Existing research shows lacunae. The links between reproductive behavior and longevity generally focus on family size rather than contrasting parents and nonparents. Studies of marital status differentials in survival generally confound the effects of parenthood and marital status. Studies of the effects of multiple roles (combining parenthood, marriage, and employment) have the drawback that parenthood is equated with currently having children in the home. The authors provide new evidence on the health of people who have reached old age, contrasting those with and without children, in an attempt to tease out the effects of parenthood, marital status, and gender. Data from Australia, Finland, and the Netherlands are used. Insofar as parenthood effects are found, they pertain to health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical exercise), providing evidence for the social control influences of parenthood.

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Journal of Family Issues
Department of Sociology

Kendig, H., Dykstra, P., van Gaalen, R., & Melkas, T. (2007). Health of aging parents and childless individuals. Journal of Family Issues, 28(11), 1457–1486. doi:10.1177/0192513X07303896