The Role of Motherhood Biographies in Midlife Women’s Health


Dr. Corinne (Rin) Reczek, Department of Sociology
Rank at time of award: Associate Professor

This project will provide essential pilot data to facilitate the development of an R01 project. This pilot project develops the concept of marital biographies, tests whether and how varying motherhood biographies across the life course are related to mothers’ midlife health, and contextualizes this relationship within differences by educational attainment. Our pilot project and subsequent R01 application will be the first to build and test a new theoretical paradigm detailing how motherhood biographies—in concert with educational attainment—matter for midlife mother’s health, providing insight into education-based health disparities in midlife. We use nationally-representative data from the 1979-2014 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY79; N=6,283 women). The data are unmatched in their ability to address our research aims as they include nationally-representative longitudinal data—the gold standard in research on family and health—and allow us to follow women from adolescence to their 50s, tracking key moments in both motherhood and education prospectively. We examine a comprehensive collection of health variables in order to capture the critical heath disparities found at midlife including a) health behaviors, b) physical health, and c) mental and cognitive health.