Biological Aging Due to Biological Father Loss: Comparing the Effect of Father Incarceration, Union Dissolution, and Death on Child and Mother Telomere Length

Colter Mitchell, University of Michigan

Recent research has shown that telomere length has an important association with indicators of aging and lifetime stress. Telomere length is thought to be an early indicator of poor health prior to major health symptoms manifesting—especially for children and healthy adults. One important stressor for many children is the loss of their father. Similarly the loss of a spouse or partner can be difficult for the mother. To date limited research has examined the effect of father/partner loss on telomere length, and none have explicitly compared different types of exits nor compared their influence on the child and the mother. This paper utilizes the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study telomere length (mothers-n=2678, children- n=2843) when the child is 9 years old. We find significant effects of biological father incarceration and death for children and significant effects of incarceration, union dissolution, and death of the biological father for the mother.

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Presented in Session 159: Marriage Instability, Union Dissolution, and Aging Health