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Dr. Sarah Burgard, University of Michigan, Professor of Sociology, Epidemiology, and Public Policy and Director of the Population Studies Center
Title: Work-family Histories and Cognitive Function in Later Life
Abstract: Long-term exposures to the stress and stimulation of different work, parenting, and partnership combinations may influence later life cognition. We investigated the relationship between work-family life histories and cognitive functioning after age 50, using data from women born between 1930 and 1957 from the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (2004-9) (n=11,908). We used multichannel sequence analysis to identify five distinct work-family typologies based on women’s work, partnership, and childrearing statuses between ages 12 and 50 and then tested their association with later life cognition. Partnered mothers who mainly worked part-time had the best cognitive function in later life, scoring better than mothers who worked full time, while partnered mothers who were mainly unpaid caregivers or did other unpaid activities had lower cognitive scores. Findings are robust to adjustment for childhood advantage and educational credentials. We discuss these findings in the context of changing work and family lives.