Parental loss and offspring mortality risk: does the timing of parental death affect a child’s post-reproductive survival?

Robyn Donrovich, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Koen Matthijs, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

A parent who has had a longer lifespan often increases ego’s own chances to also reach an older age, as evidence suggests longevity is partly hereditary. Socially, kinship relationships, and in particular, intergenerational ties are some of the most profound bonds an individual will have in life. As such, parental presence or loss may have lasting implications on child health and survival in later life. Many findings have suggested that parental loss during the early stages of child development has dire consequences on mortality risk for infants and children. As much research has focused on the short-term mortality risk of offspring, and less so on any lasting effect of parental death on child’s older age mortality risk, the main aim of this study is to examine the relationship between the timing of parental loss (or the effect of continued parental presence) over one’s lifespan and its association with own post-reproductive mortality. Survival analysis was conducted using data from the COR*-sample containing linked micro level demographic data on individual life courses for Antwerp city and surroundings (Flanders, Belgium) from 1846-1920. Individuals were followed from age 45 until death, or the end of the study period in 1920. Main variables of interest are parental circumstances (ages of mother and father at death, age of ego at parent death), controlling for the effects of other factors relating to mortality risk, occurring in both early and later life. Preliminary findings suggest differing mortality risk by age group at parental loss, as well as differing results for mother or father death. Further analysis, through the assessment of relative risks in fully standardized models and interaction effects for main variables and offspring gender, has been conducted to better understand the complex biological and social relationship between parental effects and child’s post-reproductive mortality.

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Presented in Poster Session 3