The Effect of Parent and Adult-Child Contact on Elderly Cognitive Functioning

Asia Sikora, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Research on social engagement and elderly cognitive functioning (dementia) finds that social contact is associated with higher levels of cognitive functioning among older adults; however, no causal direction has been determined. That research generally combines all types of social engagement into a single aggregate measure and does not take frequency of engagement into account. This article tests the effect of social contact frequency between elderly parents and their adult, nonresident children on elderly cognitive functioning using the Health and Retirement Study. Least squares and quantile regressions results support previous studies suggesting that higher levels of parent-child contact are associated with higher cognitive functioning of elderly mothers. Controlling for endogeneity of contact between parents and adult-children through two-stage least squares fails to reject the hypothesis that contact with nonresident, adult children has no causal impact on cognitive functioning. The association between contact and cognition is therefore a result of selection bias.

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Presented in Session 209: Family Influences on Health and Mortality