Publications

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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: This study systematically analyzed convoys of social relations to investigate the ways in which gender and income shape patterns of social relations across the life course in Lebanon. Methods: Data were drawn from a representative sample of adults aged 18 and older in Greater Beirut, Lebanon (N = 500). Multiple linear regression and multilevel models were conducted to examine main and interactive effects of age, gender, and income on social relations. Findings indicate main effects of age, income, and gender on network structure and relationship quality. Older age was associated with larger network size, greater proportion of kin in network, higher positive and lower negative relationship quality. Higher income was associated with larger network size and decreased contact frequency. Female gender was also associated with decreased contact frequency. Gender interacted with income to influence network size and network composition. Higher income was associated with a larger network size and higher proportion of kin for women. Discussion: Findings suggest diversity in the experience of social relations. Such nuance is particularly relevant to the Lebanese context where family is the main source of support in old age. Policy makers and program planners may need to refrain from viewing social relations simplistically.
    The Gerontologist 02/2014; · 2.48 Impact Factor
  • Toni C Antonucci, Kristine J Ajrouch, Kira S Birditt
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose of the Study: Social relations are a key aspect of aging and the life course. In this paper, we trace the scientific origins of the study of social relations, focusing in particular on research grounded in the convoy model. We first briefly review and critique influential historical studies to illustrate how the scientific study of social relations developed. Next, we highlight early and current findings grounded in the convoy model that have provided key insights into theory, method, policy, and practice in the study of aging. Early social relations research, while influential, lacked the combined approach of theoretical grounding and methodological rigor. Nevertheless, previous research findings, especially from anthropology, suggested the importance of social relations in the achievement of positive outcomes. Considering both life span and life course perspectives and grounded in a multidisciplinary perspective, the convoy model was developed to unify and consolidate scattered evidence while at the same time directing future empirical and applied research. Early findings are summarized, current evidence presented, and future directions projected. The convoy model has provided a useful framework in the study of aging, especially for understanding predictors and consequences of social relations across the life course.
    The Gerontologist 10/2013; · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Caregiving research has not accounted for increasingly diverse and complex marital and family histories of older Americans. The authors examined social relations and care-specific positive and negative support networks among late-life remarried wife dementia caregivers (N = 61) to determine associations among network structure, relationship quality with and support received from network members, and global assessments of family and stepfamily disagreement on caregiver well-being. Own family and friends predominated in the social relations and positive networks. Although over half (54%) of respondents included a stepfamily member in their positive networks, stepchildren comprised the largest group (35%) in the negative networks. Larger negative networks and actively negative interactions were related to greater caregiver burden, and more global disagreement with stepfamily was associated with greater depression and burden. The findings illustrate the complex nature of support and the value of targeted examinations of caregiving support dynamics among late-life remarried older adults and stepfamilies facing health demands.
    Journal of Marriage and Family 10/2013; 75(5). · 3.01 Impact Factor
  • Sojung Park, Toni Antonucci
    Journal of Women & Aging 04/2013; 25(2):199-200. · 0.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present study examined the complex way in which relationships with family and friends shape health and well-being in adulthood over time. Specifically, we explored whether the longitudinal effects of positive and negative family relationship quality on health and well-being differ in the context of varying levels of positive friend relationships. Data were from two waves (1992/1993 and 2005) of the Social Relations, Aging and Health Study. The sample included respondents aged 18 and older at Wave 1 who reported having a best friend at both waves (N = 455), and consisted of 291 (64%) women and 164 (36%) men. Wave 1 friend positivity and family positivity interacted to predict self-rated health but not self-esteem, indicating that among respondents with a less positive friend relationship, more positive family relationships were related to worse health at Wave 2. Wave 1 friend positivity and family negativity significantly interacted to predict self-rated health and self-esteem at Wave 2. The nature of the interactions were consistent in that among respondents with a more highly positive friend relationship, less negative family relationships were linked to better health and self-esteem at Wave 2. Findings provide insight into the complex way in which social relations impact positive outcomes in adulthood. Previous studies have documented the consistent and straightforward manner in which negative relationships impact health and well-being, whereas this study illustrates that the role of positive social relations is more variable and dependent on multiple relationship contexts.
    Research in Human Development 01/2013; 10(2). · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper documents experiences of stress among people 18+ (N = 500) in Beirut, Lebanon. We investigate the extent to which social relations function as a stabilizing factor for psychological health. Regression analyses indicate a curvilinear link between stress and psychological health. Both low and high levels of stress predict higher depressive symptoms. Among those aged 18–39 years, there is no buffering effect of social relations yet for those aged 40–59 years positive support quality buffers the effect of stress on depressive symptoms. Among those 60+ years old, negative support quality buffers the effect of stress on depressive symptoms. The function of social relations varies both in its main and buffering effects at different points in the life course. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
    GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry. 01/2013; 26(1):15.
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives. In Arab countries, the proportion of older adults is rapidly increasing, highlighting the need to conduct research on factors that influence aging. We describe the context-specific challenges faced and the solutions negotiated during the conduct of a survey study on family relations and aging in Greater Beirut, Lebanon. Method. Drawing on the experience of a recently completed survey study, we reflect on the context-specific challenges faced and the solutions negotiated during the phases of questionnaire construction, interviewer training, sampling, and participant recruitment as a means to contribute to the growing area of cross-cultural survey research. RESULTS: The social context of family relations influenced the nature of questions that can be included to obtain valid information. The unavailability of demographic data and the presence of cultural norms that promote deference to older adults also presented methodological challenges to the sampling and recruitment of older adults. Discussion. We provided illustrative examples on the importance of learning about a country's social and cultural contexts, and the necessity of exercising flexibility in decision making to ensure the collection of valid data and the successful completion of the study. Lessons learned inform elements of the research process in an Arab country, as well as bring to light unusual, yet generalizable, circumstances that will inform experiences in other cultural settings.
    The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 10/2012; 67(6):775-82. · 3.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has long been known that despite well-documented improvements in longevity for most Americans, alarming disparities persist among racial groups and between the well-educated and those with less education. In this article we update estimates of the impact of race and education on past and present life expectancy, examine trends in disparities from 1990 through 2008, and place observed disparities in the context of a rapidly aging society that is emerging at a time of optimism about the next revolution in longevity. We found that in 2008 US adult men and women with fewer than twelve years of education had life expectancies not much better than those of all adults in the 1950s and 1960s. When race and education are combined, the disparity is even more striking. In 2008 white US men and women with 16 years or more of schooling had life expectancies far greater than black Americans with fewer than 12 years of education-14.2 years more for white men than black men, and 10.3 years more for white women than black women. These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two "Americas," if not multiple others, in terms of life expectancy, demarcated by level of education and racial-group membership. The message for policy makers is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.
    Health Affairs 08/2012; 31(8):1803-13. · 4.64 Impact Factor
  • Kira S Birditt, Toni C Antonucci, Lauren Tighe
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    ABSTRACT: Individuals often turn to their close social ties for support during stressful life events. Although a great deal of work examines perceived support (i.e., support believed to be available should an event occur), less is known about enacted support (i.e., support actually provided during stressful events), especially among middle-aged and older people. The present study investigated whether enacted support (emotional or instrumental) varies by relationship quality and stress appraisals. Participants included 152 adults (principal respondents; aged 50 to 69 years, 63% women) who had experienced three or more stressful life events in the last year and 180 of their identified supportive ties (core network members). Multilevel models revealed that higher quality relationships enact high levels of support irrespective of high or low stress appraisals. In contrast, lower quality relationships enact greater support under conditions of higher stress but less support under conditions of lower stress, suggesting that lower quality relationships are mobilized only under higher levels of stress. Findings are consistent with the support provision process model and highlight the importance of considering relationship context and the stress continuum in studies of enacted support among older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
    Psychology and Aging 02/2012; 27(3):728-41. · 2.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We compare the close family resources of Baby Boomers (BBs) to previous cohorts of older adults at population level and then examine individual-level cohort comparisons of age-related trajectories of informal care availability from midlife into old age. Population data from the U.S. Census and from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) are used to identify a cohort similar to the BBs on marital status and fertility rates. Using generalized linear mixed models and 10-year longitudinal data from Depression and WWII parents (DWP; n = 1,052) and the parents of BBs (PBB; n = 3,573) in the HRS, we examine cohort differences in the time-varying likelihoods of being married and of having an adult child living within 10 miles. The DWP had similar informal care resources at entry to old age as is expected in the BB. Longitudinal analyses of the DWP and PBB cohorts in HRS reveal that the availability of family changes over time and that the DWP cohort was significantly less likely to have a spouse or a grown child living nearby. These findings, and future projections based on them, have significant implications for institutions and public policy concerned with the informal caregiving needs of the Boomer cohort as they age.
    The Gerontologist 01/2012; 52(2):177-88. · 2.48 Impact Factor
  • Kira S. Birditt, Toni C. Antonucci
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    ABSTRACT: The marital tie is one of the most influential relationships in adulthood, with vast implications for well-being. This special issue uses diverse samples, examines individuals in different marital situations (engaged, married, divorced, and remarried), and considers martial situations with regard to several contexts (e.g., in-law relationships, marital happiness, support, caregiving, well-being) across the life span. This issue includes four articles examining several marital situations among different age groups. Articles examine formation of marital ties in early adulthood and implications for in-law relationships, the development of marital happiness over 16 years, the implications of marital quality for the divorce experience, and the caregiving experience among remarried caregivers. Overall, these studies highlight the complexity and the diversity of experiences in marriage, divorce, and remarriage which is especially critical given the increasingly complicated family structures individuals experience across the life span.
    Research in Human Development. 01/2012; 9(2):103-105.
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    ABSTRACT: This paper addresses the health problems and opportunities that society will face in 2030. We propose a proactive model to combat the trend towards declining levels of physical activity and increasing obesity. The model emphasizes the need to increase physical activity among individuals of all ages. We focus on the right to move and the benefits of physical activity. The paper introduces a seven-level model that includes cells, creature (individual), clan (family), community, corporation, country, and culture. At each level the model delineates how increased or decreased physical activity influences health and well-being across the life span. It emphasizes the importance of combining multiple disciplines and corporate partners to produce a multifaceted cost-effective program that increases physical activity at all levels. The goal of this paper is to recognize exercise as a powerful, low-cost solution with positive benefits to cognitive, emotional, and physical health. Further, the model proposes that people of all ages should incorporate the "right to move" into their life style, thereby maximizing the potential to maintain health and well-being in a cost-effective, optimally influential manner.
    Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research 01/2012; 2012:873937.
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    ABSTRACT: There have been fundamental changes in the intergenerational family, and yet families continue to be an important part of people's lives. We use the convoy model to describe the factors that influence supportive relations within intergenerational families, beginning with a description of the changing structure of the intergenerational family. We next outline support exchanges, detailing how personal characteristics, especially gender, race, age and socio-economic status, and situational characteristics, in particular family structure and intergenerational context, influence support exchanges. Instrumental and emotional family exchanges are described, with special attention to the unique circumstances of care-giving in intergenerational families. We also examine the importance of recognising differences in the quality of intergenerational relations, again noting the influence of personal and situational characteristics. Variations in support quality, e.g. positive, negative and ambivalent, and its influence on wellbeing are discussed. As families and individuals change, differences emerge at the individual, family and societal levels. We consider the implications of changes and stability in intergenerational relations and make recommendations about how best to envisage and plan future intergenerational family support. Societies with fewer resources as well as individuals and families with diverse individual histories must be innovative and creative in meeting the needs of older people as well as those of all family members.
    Ageing and Society 09/2011; 31(07):1084 - 1106. · 1.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although recent attention has focused on the likelihood that contemporary sexual minority youth (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual [GLB]) are "coming out" at younger ages, few studies have examined whether early sexual orientation identity development is also present in older GLB cohorts. We analyzed retrospective data on the timing of sexual orientation milestones in a sample of sexual minorities drawn from the California Quality of Life Surveys. Latent profile analysis of 1,260 GLB adults, ages 18-84 years, identified 3 trajectories of development: early (n = 951; milestones spanning ages 12-20), middle (n = 239; milestones spanning ages 18-31), and late (n = 70; milestones spanning ages 32-43). Motivated by previous research on variability in adolescent developmental trajectories, we identified 2 subgroups in post hoc analyses of the early profile group: child onset (n = 284; milestones spanning ages 8-18) and teen onset (n = 667; milestones spanning ages 14-22). Nearly all patterns of development were identity centered, with average age of self-identification as GLB preceding average age of first same-sex sexual activity. Overall, younger participants and the majority of older participants were classified to the early profile, suggesting that early development is common regardless of age cohort. The additional gender differences observed in the onset and pace of sexual orientation identity development warrant future research.
    Developmental Psychology 09/2011; 47(6):1658-73. · 3.21 Impact Factor
  • Toni C. Antonucci, James S. Jackson
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    ABSTRACT: How the elderly cope as they age with environmental factors and life events must be understood within family and friendship contexts that are multigenerational, influenced by cohort differences and historical events over the individual life-span. The life-span framework considers individual, organizational, and institutional experiences over the life-course. We note that environments provide affordances for coping behaviors that can have both positive and negative consequences for physical and psychological health as people age. Research is beginning to identify the biological mechanisms through which positive and negative coping behaviors may exert their mental and physical health benefits.
    12/2010: pages 464 - 467; , ISBN: 9780470669600
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    ABSTRACT: An accumulation of research evidence suggests that early pubertal timing plays a significant role in girls' behavioral and emotional problems. If early pubertal timing is a problematic event, then early developing Black girls should manifest evidence of this crisis because they tend to be the earliest to develop compared to other girls from different racial and ethnic groups. Given the inconsistent findings among studies using samples of Black girls, the present study examined the independent influence of perceived pubertal timing and age of menarche on externalizing behaviors and depressive symptoms in a nationally representative sample of Black girls (412 African American and 195 Caribbean Black; M = 15 years). Path analysis results indicated that perceived pubertal timing effects on externalizing behaviors were moderated by ethnic subgroup. Caribbean Black girls' who perceived their development to be early engaged in more externalizing behaviors than Caribbean Black girls' who perceived their development to be either on-time or late. Age of menarche did not significantly predict Black girls' externalizing behaviors and depressive symptoms. The onset of menarche does not appear to be an important predictor of Black girls' symptoms of externalizing behavior and depression. These findings suggest ethnic subgroup and perceived pubertal timing are promising factors for better understanding the adverse effects of early perceived pubertal timing among Black girls.
    Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2010; 40(10):1394-406. · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To test the association between several social networks variables reflecting both structural characteristics and quality of relationships with the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease 5 and up to 15 years later. The study sample is gathered from the Paquid cohort, a French population-based study of 3,777 elderly people evaluated at baseline and regularly revisited during a 15-year interval. The sample consisted of 2,089 subjects who completed the social network questionnaire and were free of dementia at the time of enrollment and also at the next two follow-ups to minimize the problem of reverse causality. The questionnaire collected at baseline included marital status, number of ties, nature of social network, satisfaction, perception of being understood/misunderstood, and reciprocity in relationships. The incident cases of dementia considered were those diagnosed at 5-year and subsequent follow-ups, resulting in 461 dementia and 373 Alzheimer's disease cases. The multivariate Cox model, including the six social network variables and adjusted for numerous potential confounders, showed significant associations with satisfaction and reciprocity in relationships. Participants who felt satisfied with their relations had a 23% reduced dementia risk. Participants who reported that they received more support than they gave over their lifetime had a 55% and 53% reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, respectively. The only variables associated with subsequent dementia or Alzheimer's disease were those reflecting the quality of relationships. The delay between social network assessment and dementia diagnosis was from 5 up to 15 years, thus minimizing the problem of reverse causality.
    Psychosomatic Medicine 11/2010; 72(9):905-11. · 4.08 Impact Factor
  • 09/2010; , ISBN: 9780470880166
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    Toni C Antonucci, Kira S Birditt, Noah J Webster
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    ABSTRACT: Among older adults social relationships influence mortality, but it is less clear how. We examined associations between relationship quality with spouse, child, and best friend and mortality; and whether the associations varied in the presence of chronic illnesses. Survival analyses (N = 514; 59 percent women aged >or= 60) revealed sometimes counterintuitive main and buffering effects. Individuals who reported greater negative relationship quality with their children and friends lived longer. Buffering models suggest that relationships may exacerbate the effects of chronic illness on mortality and emphasize the importance of using a more nuanced approach when examining the effects of social relations on mortality.
    Journal of Health Psychology 07/2010; 15(5):649-59. · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prior research suggests that the attribution of individual and group differences to genetic causes is correlated with prejudiced attitudes toward minority groups. Our study suggests that these findings may be due to the wording of the questions and to the choice of response options. Using a series of vignettes in an online survey, we find a relationship between racial attitudes and genetic attributions when respondents are asked to make causal attributions of differences between racial groups. However, when they are asked to make causal attributions for characteristics shown by individuals, no such relationship is found. The response scale used appears to make less, if any, difference in the results. These findings indicate that the way questions about genetic causation of behavior are framed makes a significant contribution to the answers obtained because it significantly changes the meaning of the questions. We argue that such framing needs to be carefully attended to, not only in posing research questions but also in discourse about genetics more generally.
    Public Opinion Quarterly 01/2010; 74(3):460-476. · 2.25 Impact Factor

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