Psychological Pathways Linking Parent-Child Relationships to Objective and Subjective Sleep among Older Adults

Haowei Wang, Kyungmin Kim, Jeffrey A. Burr, Bei Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study investigated whether older adults with better relationships with their adult children have better subjective and objective sleep quality than older adults with less-positive relationships with their children. We also examined whether depressive symptoms and loneliness mediated the association between parent-child relationships and sleep among older adults. Methods: Data were used from the second wave of the National Social life, Health, and Aging Project, in which 548 respondents (aged 62-90) participated in the sleep survey to measure their actigraph sleep activity for three consecutive days. Respondents also reported sleep quality (i.e., sleep duration and insomnia symptoms), contact frequency, and emotional closeness with their children. Results: Results from structural equation modeling showed that greater emotional closeness with children was directly associated with better objective sleep characteristics (i.e., sleep fragmentation and amount of sleep). Also, more frequent contact with children was directly related to fewer insomnia symptoms among older adults. Moreover, emotional closeness with children was indirectly linked to insomnia symptoms via depressive symptoms among older adults. Discussion: This study provided evidence for psychological pathways linking parent-child relationships and older parents' subjective sleep. The findings have implications for health professionals and family counselors who help people with sleep problems and relationship difficulties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1972-1982
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Depression
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Loneliness
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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