Marital status and mortality: Does family structure in childhood matter?

Jeong han Kang, Jibum Kim, Min Ah Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


It is well known that marital status is significantly associated with mortality risk. Little is known, however, regarding whether and how the effects of marital status are moderated by one's own family structure in childhood. The purposes of this study are to examine whether marital status (i.e., family structure in adulthood) and living with both biological parents in childhood (i.e., family structure in childhood) are associated with mortality risk, and whether and how the effects of marital status vary depending on family structure in childhood and gender. We analyze the risk of death in five waves of the General Social Survey (GSS) from 1994 through 2002 after linking the GSS data to death certificate data from the National Death Index through 2008. The findings indicate that being widowed increases the risk of mortality, while living with both parents in childhood lowers it. Interestingly, analysis of the interaction between marital status and family structure in childhood reveals that the disadvantage of widowhood in terms of mortality is significantly stronger for those who lived with both parents in childhood than for those who did not. Subsample analysis by gender shows that the moderating effect of living with both parents is largely equal across men and women, though statistically more robust for men. These findings suggest that living with both parents during childhood may increase vulnerability to marital disruptions due to unwanted life events such as spousal loss. Childhood advantages, ironically, may form more stressful contexts of spousal loss by lowering one's adaptability or immunity to adulthood hardships, especially when the hardships in adulthood are characteristically opposite from the childhood advantages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-160
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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