Family ties are critical for emotional and physical well-being, as well as other positive outcomes in adulthood (e.g., work, parenthood). Distinct dimensions of parent-child ties (e.g., contact, support, relationship quality) matter for health an well-being, but we do not know which combinations of dimensions in parent-child ties contribute to better well-being for families on the whole and for specific members (e.g., older parents or middle- aged women). Families as a whole may differ in levels of well-being based on the qualities of ties and support exchanged among multiple members. Some families may experience close and intensive supportive ties, other families may maintain distant or ambivalent ties, and other families may be characterized by considerable variability in relationship qualities and support patterns. However, most studies of relationship qualities and intergenerational support have examined only a single dyad in the family, and have not considered the many parent-child ties that may contribute to overall family relationship patterns and well-being of family members. The proposed research will identify family typologies by combining distinct dimensions of parent-child ties, examine changes of family typologies over time, and how family typologies are associated with well-being of multiple family members. The proposed research draws on data from the NIA-funded Family Exchanges Study (FES1 in 2008 and FES2 in 2013), involving multiple family informants (i.e., middle-aged adults, grown offspring, and living parents) to explore three specific areas of inquiry. First, this study will identify family typologies including reports from multiple family members. We will combine structural (i.e., contact in person and by phone), functional (i.e., support given and received), and emotional (i.e., positive and negative relationship qualities) dimensions into distinct typologies. Second, this study will examine change and stability of family typologies over time, focusing on a) what factors (e.g., types and characteristics of events) contribute to changes in the typology membership, and b) which family members (e.g., older mother and daughter) instigate changes at the family level. Third, this study will examine associations of family typologies with emotional well-being and health behaviors. We will examine effects of family typologies on a) overall family well-being and b) individual member's well-being, considering differential implications of family typologies for individual well-being. The proposed study will provide an unprecedented understanding of family contexts in adulthood. A vast research literature has linked parent-adult child ties to individual family member's well-being (either parents or children), but well-being may be a family-level property as well as an individual-level property;that is, families may share relationship qualities and interpersonal behaviors that influence the well-being of each family member. Findings about family typologies and well-being of multiple family members will provide implications for effective interventions to promote physical and emotional health and to improve family relationships.

Public Health Relevance

Families may differ in their level of well-being based on relationship qualities and support patterns among multiple family members. Focusing on family contexts of parent-child ties, this project will a) classify family typologies by combining multipl features of parent-child ties, b) investigate change of family typologies over time, and c) examine associations of family typologies with the well-being of multiple family members. Our findings about the family contexts and well-being will provide information for effective interventions to promote physical and emotional health and to improve family relationships.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Gerald, Melissa S
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University of Texas Austin
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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