Life-course generational placements and health and wellbeing in later life

Ageing and Society, 1–19 (2023)
Open Access


Previous research has demonstrated that family transitions, specifically births and deaths of preceding and following generations within families, are associated with individuals’ later-life well-being and health. However, life course, family systems, and role theories suggest that this relationship might be complex because, as individuals age, they can experience multiple such events and their effects might be interconnected. Therefore, this study asks whether and how transitions into and out of multiple intergenerational family roles are associated with later-life well-being and health. We account for the occurrence, timing, and ordering of the parents’ death and the birth of the first child and grandchild. To this end, we use the concept of ‘generational placement trajectories’. They capture the vertical position of individuals in their intergenerational family over age and reflect the changing family roles and kinship reservoir of individuals across their life course. Applying sequence, cluster, and regression analyses to data from the German Ageing Survey (n=3,617), we investigate associations between generational placement trajectories from birth to age 60 and four dimensions of later-life well-being and health, namely life satisfaction, depressiveness, functional limitations, and physical health problems. Results support, first, the notion of salutary effects of a larger kinship reservoir and multiple social roles in the family and, second, indicate that off-time transitions are associated negatively with various later-life well-being and health outcomes. Importantly, the effect of temporal deviations from the ‘normative’ family life course might be affected by individual socio-economic differences. We enhance previous research by demonstrating that the occurrence, timing, and ordering of transitions into and out of multiple kin relations and family roles across the life course relate to individuals’ later-life well-being and health.

Schlagwörter: Deutschland, biological family, family life, mental health
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.