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DEBORAH CARR Rutgers University KRISTEN W. SPRINGER Rutgers University and Columbia University* Advances in Families and Health Research in the 21st Century We review research on families and health published between 2000 and 2009 and highlight key themes and Fndings from innovative, methodologically rigorous studies. Whereas research in prior decades focused primarily on whether family structure affects child and adult health, contemporary research examines the contextual and processual factors that shape for whom, for which outcomes, and under what conditions families affect mental and physical health. We discuss how family structure, transitions, and processes within families of origin affect children’s health over the life course. We then examine the effects of marital status, transitions, and quality for adult health. We point out limitations in current research, discuss implications of recent Fndings for policy, and highlight theoretical and methodological directions for future research. Health is the single most important indicator of the overall well-being of a society. The World Health Organization (2006) de±nes health Department of Sociology and Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, 30 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901 ( *Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032. Key Words: child outcomes, family structure, marriage, mental health, physical health, relationship quality. as ‘‘complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or in±rmity.’’ Early models of health emphasized biological in²uences, yet scholars now recognize that social factors are an equally important in²uence. Family is among the most powerful in²uences on health, as it provides economic, social, and psychological resources (and strains) that protect (and threaten) the health of its members. In this article, we synthesize research from the last decade that documents the complex ways that families affect physical and mental health over the life course. One of the most important developments of the past decade is that researchers have moved beyond the following question: Does family structure affect health? Rather, contemporary scholars explore the following question: Under what conditions, for which outcomes, for whom, and through which pathways do family structure, context, and process affect health? We also highlight important and unresolved research challenges, including a reliance on con- ceptual and statistical models that privilege the White middle-class nuclear heterosexual family as the norm, a lack of attention to the precise pathways linking family structures and statuses to speci±c indicators of health (including both self-reported and biomarker indicators), under- development of a ‘‘gold standard’’ for assessing child and adolescent health outcomes, and a continued focus on the individual rather than the dyad or family system as the unit of analysis.
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2011 for the course SOCIOLOGY 920:272 taught by Professor Mouzon during the Fall '09 term at Rutgers.

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