Lee et al., 2015. Do cherished children age successfully? Longitudinal findings from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study.


Although early adversity has been linked to worse mental and physical health in adulthood, few studies have investigated the pathways through which positive and negative dimensions of early experiences can jointly influence psychological well-being in later life. This study examined: (a) profiles of early experiences across multiple domains, (b) the relations of these profiles to hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in later life, and (c) whether midlife social support mediated these relations. We first conducted latent class analysis of early experiences using data from 1,076 men in the VA Normative Aging Study who completed the Childhood Experiences Scale (age: M = 69, SD = 7). Analyses yielded 3 profiles of early experiences, labeled as cherished (strong support and some losses), harshly disciplined (harsh parental discipline, low positive reinforcement, and nonnormative stressors), and ordinary (few stressors and low parental attention). Next, we applied structural equation modeling to data on a subset of this sample assessed 7 years later on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being (n = 496; age: M = 76, SD = 7). In general, the cherishedgroup reported stronger qualitative social support in midlife than the harshly disciplined and ordinary groups, which in turn was related to greater hedonic (life satisfaction, positive affect) and eudaimonic (competence, positive relations with others) well-being in later life. The cherished group also reported higher autonomy than the ordinary group, but this association was independent of midlife social support. Our findings suggest that experiencing adversity in the context of a nurturing early environment can promote successful aging through the maintenance of supportive relationships in midlife. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)