The effects of childlessness on the care and psychological well-being of older adults with disabilities

Echo Chang, Kathleen H. Wilber, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Adult children are a primary focus of family and caregiver research. In contrast, relatively little is known about childless elders with a disability, including their care needs and the state of their overall well-being compared to elderly parents. We addressed this gap by examining the relationship between childlessness and the care and well-being of adults aged 75 and older with a disability. Methods: Parents and childless persons aged 75 and older were compared using data from the 1998 to 2004 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We used logistic regression to examine the relationship between childlessness and care provision (personal care and assistive devise use) and ordinal regression to examine the relationships of parental status, personal care, and use of assistive devices with well-being. The analysis was based on 2048 observations from 1456 community-dwelling respondents who had difficulty walking across a room or getting into or out of bed. Results: Compared to parents, childless elders with a disability generally do not receive less care or have worse psychological well-being. However, being unmarried reduces the likelihood of having personal care and is associated with depressive affect. Use of assistive devices is associated with less depressive affect. Conclusion: Childless older adults are similar to parents on measures of psychological well-being and care provision. This finding has important implications, as it is projected that 30% of baby boomers who will need assistance will lack care from spouses or adult children. Further exploration of compensatory resources is suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-719
Number of pages8
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • assistive devices
  • childless
  • personal care
  • psychological well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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