The research will continue our longitudinal investigation of nonnormative parenting experiences to examine how they influence life course trajectories and well-being during the transition into retirement and in the early years of old age. It builds on the progress of previous awards (R03 AG15549, R01AG20558, and Project 3 of P01 AG21079), which have used the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) to investigate the long-range effects of nonnormative parenting through midlife. Parents who have either a child with developmental disability (DD), severe mental illness (SMI), or who have experienced the death of a child are compared with unaffected parents with respect to the parents'life course attainment and well-being. The sample members have been followed from the age of 18, before they became parents, throughout adulthood. The latest follow-up occurred when parents were in their mid 60s, on average. Using new screening procedures, we identified 1513 parents who have had nonnormative experiences. The proposed investigation will extend the focus to intergenerational influences involving life course attainment and shared caregiving by non-disabled brothers and sisters of the individuals with DD and SMI. This research integrates the life course perspective with models of process and change from the stress and coping framework to understand life-long patterns of adaptation associated with nonnormative parenting, now extended to adaptations during the transition to retirement and the early years of old age. The WLS provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of nonnormative parenting for a sample that was recruited before parenthood, and is thus uniquely able to address self-selection biases that have compromised previous research. Furthermore, the distinctive sibling data structure of the WLS allows us to construct a sibling control design in which those who have experienced a nonnormative parenting event will be compared with their siblings who have not, thereby controlling for potentially confounding family background variables. The combination of a pre-parenthood data point and the possibility of using a sibling control design offers the opportunity to advance our understanding of the unique effects of nonnormative parenting on the normative transitions of retirement and the early years of old age.

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National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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University of Wisconsin Madison
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