All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Joseph D Wolfe

Advisory Committee Members

Patricia Drentea

Gregory Pavela

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Despite a well-established relationship between education and cognitive performance in later life, few studies have considered the effects of educational attainment of the family. The education of one's parents can help prevent cognitive decline, as parents (G1) with more education can transfer more health knowledge, teach health literacy, and cultivate healthy lifestyles. This downward spillover between parental education (G1) and older adults’ (G2) cognitive health is well documented. For the downstream effect, attention is often given to maternal education rather than paternal education. Another line of research examined intergenerational transmissions from children (G3) to parents (G2), finding that having well-educated children (G3) was negatively associated with dementia onset and cognitive decline. Adult children (G3) form an important part of older adults’ (G2) social network, and the structural conditions enable resources to be transmitted from one generation to the other. Building on this research, the current study investigates the association between older adults' cognition and multigenerational educational attainment, focusing on the behavioral mechanisms underlying this association. Understanding how multigenerational education improves older adults' cognitive functioning contributes to our knowledge of how life-course SES affects health in older age. Because it is well-known that parents' (G1) SES plays an important role in individual (G2) early-life development. During later adulthood, personal health status is affected by adult children's (G3) circumstances and resources. This study aims to show how the educational attainment of multiple familial generations serves as a potential resource in shaping personal cognitive health later in life. Using nationally representative data from the 2014 Health and Retirement Study, this project will test the hypotheses that (1) a positive association exists between parental (G1) and adult children’s (G3) education and the cognitive function of old adults (G2), (2) behavioral factors including smoking, drinking alcohol, and physical activities account for the association between multigenerational education and older adults' cognitive functioning, and (3) older adults who have healthier behaviors have better cognitive health.



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