Scott Lynch, Duke University
Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 3:30pm
TITLE: Rethinking the Role Childhood SES Plays in Affecting Adult Health: Integrating Existing Theories with a Life Course Perspective on the Disablement Process ABSTRACT: Mounting evidence indicates that childhood socioeconomic status (SES) has long-term effects on health in later adulthood. However, findings are mixed regarding how it influences health. Specifically, it is unclear whether childhood SES affects adult health only through its role in influencing adult SES or exerts an independent influence on adult health, net of adult SES. Drawing from life course perspectives on the disablement process, we advance and test a theory of "progressive mediation" which suggests that the extent to which childhood SES exerts an independent influence on adult health depends upon the seriousness of the health outcome being considered. We argue that childhood status can have strong residual influences on lesser health conditions and precursors to more serious conditions, while having weak, or no, residual influences on more serious health conditions. Lesser health conditions and precursors arise relatively early in adulthood, but adult socioeconomic resources provide a number of resources that can interrupt or postpone the disease development and disablement process that otherwise may stem from early adulthood conditions. Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, we find robust support for this theory.