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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2002 Mar;57(2):S108-16.

Life course effects of early parental loss among very old African Americans.

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Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0850, USA.



To analyze the life course effects of the early loss of one or both parents on very old Black Americans.


Open-ended, semistructured interviews were used with a sample of 109 respondents aged 85 years and older. Correlations identified significant associations, and qualitative data illustrate life course trajectories of selected respondents.


Those who lost a parent through death or desertion were less integrated into family and friendship groups in late life, and they had fewer social resources in general. Qualitative data describe three outcomes in the sample: those who grew up with both parents present, those who lost a parent but still reported a contented childhood, and those with disrupted families and negative effects.


The respondents' open-ended commentary about their past lives and their current situation enhances understanding of connections between early life events and adaptation in old age.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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