Western University SociologyFaculty of Social Science

CIHR Grant awarded for Longitudinal Health Research Project

Mar. 2012

Andrea Willson
Kim Shuey
Rachel Margolis

Congratulations to Andrea Willson, Kim Shuey, Rachel Margolis and Laurie Corna! They have received a CIHR Operating Grant for their research project entitled, "Investigating health trajectories over the life course and across generations: A longitudinal analysis of the transmission of health and socioeconomic inequality from parents to their adult children."

Project Summary

It is well understood that socioeconomic status is positively associated with health, and that disadvantaged social circumstances in childhood can set individuals on pathways that result in the accumulation of further disadvantages that lead to poorer health over time. However, this body of work treats health inequality as a process that operates within the span of the individual life course, overlooking the transmission of health inequality across generations within families. We understand little about the process through which health inequality is passed along through families beyond that childhood social contexts, such as poverty, are important. In part, this oversight is related to the methodological challenges associated with assessing the intergenerational transmission of inequality, as well as the lack of longitudinal data that follow both children and their parents across a significant portion of their lives. In this study, we will use a unique and relatively unexplored intergenerational component of the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which began in 1968 and continues to follow original sample members and their adult children as they form their own households. Using quantitative methods, such as latent class analysis, we will examine (1) the long term consequences of disadvantaged childhood circumstances; (2) the relationship between adult social and economic resources and health; and (3) the intergenerational transmission of health risk and health behaviours. We anticipate the findings from this work will further our understanding of the mechanisms through which inequalities in health are perpetuated or alleviated across the life course and across generations. Moreover our findings relate directly to health and social policies targeted at reducing health disparities by investing in early life inputs. Understanding why health trajectories within and between families differ is important for mapping how inequalities are perpetuated and can be reduced.

Read more about this project.