Published: November 28, 2019

Lam, J. (2019). Actor-partner effects of childhood disadvantage on later life subjective well-being among individuals in coresidential unions. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.


Jack Lam


Prior research on cumulative disadvantage has primarily focused on individuals’ own childhood adversity for their later-life outcomes. Nevertheless, partner’s childhood disadvantage may also shape respondent’s later-life wellbeing.

Drawing on a household-level dataset, I examine respondent’s own childhood adversity as well as their partner’s childhood adversity (poor childhood health, parental divorce, or father’s long-term unemployment) on respondent’s subjective wellbeing, at age 50 and above.

Findings from actor-partner interdependence model (APIM) show poor childhood health of the male partner as associated with worse mental health and self-rated health of the female partner in later life. For both outcome measures, the partner effects were attenuated after adjusting for the female partner’s report of perceived social support. For self-rated health, adjusting for variation in the presence of a chronic illness and household income also attenuated the association.

Partnered individuals are nested within a specific context, whereby stress and implications of early-life disadvantage may be conceptualized at the couple-level. Future research that assesses how early-life experiences of individuals may have implications for family members’ later-life wellbeing may be valuable.