The complex nature of family support across the life span: Implications for psychological well-being

This study examines the complex role of family networks in shaping adult psychological well-being over time. We examine the unique and interactive longitudinal influences of family structure (i.e., composition and size) and negative family relationship quality on psychological well-being among young (ages 18–34), middle-aged (ages 35–49), and older adults (ages 50+). A sample of 881 adults (72% White; 26% Black) was drawn from the longitudinal Social Relations, Age, and Health Study. Structural equation modeling indicated that among young and middle-aged adults, increasing family negativity was associated with increases in depressive symptoms over time. In contrast, among older adults, lowered proportion of family in network and an increasing number of family members in the network (i.e., family size) were associated with decreases in depressive symptoms. These findings were moderated by family negativity. Among older adults with low family negativity, having a lower proportion of family and larger family size were associated with decreasing depressive symptoms, but there was no effect among those reporting high family negativity. Overall, these results contribute to an increased understanding of the complex, developmental nature of how family support influences well-being across the life span and highlights unique age differences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)