Effects of family configuration on cognitive functions and health across the adult life span
Sammanfattning: This thesis examines whether childhood family configuration influences performance on cognitive functions and health in adulthood and old age. All studies examined participants in the Betula Prospective Cohort Study aged 35 to 85 years (Nilsson et al., 1997). Study ? established whether there are reliable effects of sibship size and birth order in a large sample of participants in adulthood and old age. The results showed that the effects previously demonstrated in children and adolescents (e.g., Belmont & Marolla, 1973; Mercy & Steelman, 1982) have a long-lasting effect and can be demonstrated in an adult sample. These studies concluded that intelligence and executive functioning decreased as the sibship size increased. Birth order, in contrast, had only influenced executive functions and working memory: earlier born siblings performed at a higher level than later born siblings. Study ?? examined whether the effects of sibship size and birth order can be replicated and extended to episodic memory and whether the effects of family configuration are stable over a five-year interval. The results showed that early born siblings and siblings belonging to a smaller sibship size performed at a higher level and that these effects on both recall and recognition were stable over a five-year interval. Study ??? explored whether childhood family configuration influences chronic adult diseases (myocardial infarction and circulatory disorders, stroke, and hypertension). The overall results showed that being born in a large sibship is a risk factor for stroke, myocardial infarction /circulatory disorders, and hypertension in old age. The results also suggest that being born early in a sibship is a predictor of stroke.
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