Last updated September 19, 2017  

Population Studies

Principal Investigators:

Marsha R. Mailick, Ph.D.
Waisman Center
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Jan S. Greenberg, Ph.D.
Waisman Center
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Purpose of the Study

In this project, we are studying the long-range effects of parenting a child with a disability using population-based studies. Parents who have either a child with a developmental disability (DD) or mental health problem (MI), or who have experienced the death of a child are studied in midlife and old age, using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) and the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) data.

Using these longitudinal data bases, we are investigating the extent to which such parents experience differences in their patterns of educational and occupational attainment, marriage and parenting, social interaction and social support, health, and psychological well-being. Thus, we seek to understand that pathways to resiliency as well as vulnerability of these families.

These studies also offer specific insights about parenting a child with a disability, revealing both the stresses of this challenge and the resiliency of parents who cope successfully. In addition, these studies more generally address child effects on parents, revealing the bi-directional and reciprocal influences of parents and children on their unfolding and intersecting development across the life course.

The following are our specific aims:

  1. to investigate how WLS parents of children with developmental disabilities or serious mental health problems and parents who have lost a child to death differ from parents of unaffected children in midlife and in the transition to retirement.
  2. to investigate the effect of the timing of these nonnormative parenting events on parental life course trajectories and well-being.
  3. to examine the differential impact of having a child with a disability or experiencing the death of a child on mothers versus fathers.
  4. to replicate these analyses using data from the MIDUS study, which provides an opportunity to investigate the generalizability of nonnormative parenting effects using a large national sample that spans the entire adult life course, with a targeted minority over-sample.



Research using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study is supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG20058 and P01 AG21079). Research using the MIDUS Study is also supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (P01 AG20166).



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