Title

Race/ethnic differences in social resources as cognitive risk and protective factors

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2020

Department/School

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Publication Title

Research in Human Development

Abstract

© 2020, Copyright © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Overall social network size, often the sum of common lifetime relationships, including children, family, and friends, has been linked to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease. However, little research has examined the association between network size composition and cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults in the context of race/ethnicity. We investigated the associations between the number of close children, family, and friends independently with executive function (EF) and memory across a subsample of non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic White participants who completed the Health and Retirement Study Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (N = 2,395). We found that network size composition was more closely linked to EF than memory and that these associations varied by race/ethnicity. Specifically, the strongest associations existed between EF and quadratic estimates of the number of close children of non-Hispanic Black participants, and number of close family members for Hispanic participants. Among Black participants, a curvilinear relationship indicated that two close children were associated with greater EF, while a smaller or larger number of close children were associated with lower EF. On the other hand, among Hispanic participants, higher EF was associated with fewer (0–1) and greater (4-5+) numbers of family member contacts. Overall, these results indicate that examining children, family, and friends independently may be more useful than the common practice of aggregation of overall network size, especially in the context of race/ethnicity.

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