Modeling racial disparities in physical health via close relationship functioning: A life course approach
Social Science and Medicine
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 03 February 2021 in compliance with publisher policy.
Objective. The aim of the present study was to test a life course model in which racial disparities in physical health between Caucasian and African Americans are driven by disparities in close relationship functioning. This model also examined relative evidence for intergenerational transmission of relationship functioning and ongoing exposure to prejudice and discrimination as two pathways that might shape adult relationship functioning. Method. A sample of 523 Caucasian and African American men and women were prospectively tracked from a birth cohort initiated in the 1960s. Reports of parental relationship functioning were obtained from participants and their mothers in adolescence. In midlife, participants completed measures of perceived discrimination (lifetime and everyday discrimination), close relationship functioning (relationship strain and support) and physical health (self-rated health, resting heart rate and systolic blood pressure). Results. As hypothesized, close relationship functioning was a strong predictor of physical health in adulthood. Furthermore, we observed that perceived discrimination over the life course was linked to impaired relationship functioning. Evidence for intergenerational transmission of relationship functioning was more equivocal. Conclusion. Racial disparities in physical health may be maintained via social factors throughout the life course. Although such factors have sometimes been considered outside the purview of the medical field, it is vital that researchers and clinicians begin to more fully address the implications of social forces in order to remediate racial health disparities. Keywords: racial disparities, physical health, relationship functioning, life course, perceived discrimination
David Matthew Doyle was supported by training grant T32MH013043 from the National Institute of Mental Health during the course of this work. This project was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to Bruce Link and Barbara A. Cohn (R01HD058515).
This is the author accepted manuscript.