Publications

A life course model of self-rated health through adolescence and young adulthood

This paper proposes and tests a life course model of self-rated health (SRH) extending from late childhood to young adulthood, drawing on three waves of panel data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Very little research has examined SRH during the early decades, or whether and how these self-assessments reflect experiences in the family of origin. Background characteristics (parental education, income, and family structure), parental health conditions (asthma, diabetes, obesity, migraines), and early health challenges (physical abuse, presence of a disability, and parental alcoholism and smoking) predict SRH from adolescence to young adulthood. These experiences in the family-of-origin are substantially mediated by the young person’s health and health behaviors (as indicated by obesity, depression, smoking, drinking, and inactivity), although direct effects remain (especially for early health challenges). Associations between SRH and these mediators (especially obesity) strengthen with age. In turn, efforts to promote healthy behaviors in young adulthood, after the completion of secondary school, may be especially strategic in the promotion of health in later adulthood.