Family Trajectories and Health: A Life Course Perspective

  • Nicola Barban


This paper investigates the role of family trajectory, i.e., the whole sequence of family events during the life course of early adults in shaping their health outcomes. Union formation and childbearing are jointly considered, since the two life domains are highly connected and their intersections may have an effect on health outcomes. Data come from wave I and wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) in the United States. The paper is divided in two parts. The first part focuses on family transitions and investigates if changes in timing (when events happen), quantum (what and how many transitions), and ordering (in what order), have an effect on the health of young women. In the second part, life course trajectories are classified into six groups representing different ideal-types of family trajectories and the association of these trajectories with health outcomes is explored. Results suggest that family trajectories play an important role on different health outcomes. Controlling for selection and background characteristics, precocious and “non-normative” transitions are associated with lower self-reported health and higher propensity of smoking and drinking.


Sequence analysis Life course analysis Health outcomes Transition to adulthood 

Trajectoires familiales et santé: une approche sous l’angle de parcours de vie


Cet article étudie le rôle des trajectoires familiales, i.e., la totalité des séquences d’évènements familiaux survenus au cours de la vie de jeunes adultes, sur l’état de santé de ces derniers. La formation d’union et la procréation sont pris en compte conjointement car ces deux dimensions sont étroitement liées et leurs croisements peuvent avoir un effet sur la santé. Les données sont issues des vagues 1 et 4 de l'enquête longitudinale nationale sur la santé des adolescents (Add Health) réalisée aux Etats-Unis. Cet article est subdivisé en deux parties. La première partie s’intéresse aux transitions familiales et examine si des changements dans le calendrier (quand les événements arrivent-ils), le type et le nombre (quelles transitions et combien) et l’ordre (dans lequel elles surviennent) ont un effet sur la santé des jeunes femmes. Dans la deuxième partie, les trajectoires de vie sont classées en six catégories représentant les idéal-types des trajectoires familiales, et les associations entre ces trajectoires et l’état de santé sont étudiées. Les résultats indiquent que les trajectoires familiales jouent un rôle important sur l’état de santé. En contrôlant les effets de sélection et les caractéristiques individuelles, les transitions précoces et non normatives sont associées à un moins état de santé auto-déclaré et une tendance plus élevée de consommation de tabac et d’alcool.


Analyse de séquence Analyse de parcours de vie État de santé Transition vers l’âge adulte 



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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