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Family trajectories and health. A life course perspective

Number: 39
Year: 2011
Author(s): Nicola Barban
Keywords: sequence analysis,life course analysis,health outcomes,transition to adulthood
In this paper, I investigate the role of family trajectory, i.e. the whole sequence of family events during the life course of early adults in shaping their health outcomes. I jointly consider union formation and childbearing, since the two life domains are highly connected and their intersections may have an effect on health outcomes. Data come from Wave I and Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The paper is divided in two parts. First, I focus on transitions and investigate if changes in timing (when events happen), quantum (what and how many transitions) and sequencing (in what order), have an effect on the health of young women. In the second part, I classify life course trajectories into six groups representing different ideal-types of family trajectories and I explore the association of these trajectories with health outcomes. Results suggest that family trajectories play an important role on different health outcomes. Controlling for selection and background characteristics, precocious and "non-normative" transitions are associated with lower self-reported health and higher propensity of smoking and drinking.

Nicola Barban

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Keywords: sequence analysis, life course analysis, health outcomes, transition to adulthood


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