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J Health Soc Behav. 1995 Dec;36(4):386-98.

The psychological consequences of multiple roles: the nonnormative case.

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Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin at Madison 53706, USA.


Occupying multiple roles has been shown to be a major predictor of psychological well-being. We investigated the effects of multiple roles in the nonnormative case: a sample of aging mothers of adult children with mental retardation. These women have been in the role of caregiver for up to five decades, in addition to occupying the range of roles normatively held in adulthood and old age. We found, using longitudinal analyses, that holding multiple roles in significantly and negatively related to depression in this sample, as in the general population. The effect of multiple roles remains significant even after the previous level of depression is controlled. These results support the role accumulation hypothesis predicting positive consequences of multiple roles on psychological well-being, even in this sample of older women who have had lifelong caregiving responsibilities.

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