Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Feeling of Parental Caring Predict Health Status in Midlife: A 35-Year Follow-up of the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study

  • Linda G. Russek
  • Gary E. Schwartz


In the early 1950s, multiple-choice scores reflecting feelings of warmth and closeness with parents were obtained from a sample of healthy, undergraduate Harvard men who participated in the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study. Thirty-five years later, detailed medical and psychological histories and medical records were obtained. Ninety-one percent of participants who did not perceive themselves to have had a warm relationship with their mothers (assessed during college) had diagnosed diseases in midlife (including coronary artery disease, hypertension, duodenal ulcer, and alcoholism), as compared to 45% of participants who perceived themselves to have had a warm relationship with their mothers. A similar association between perceived warmth and closeness and future illness was obtained for fathers. Since parents are usually the most meaningful source of social support in early life, the perception of parental love and caring may have important effects on biological and psychological health and illness throughout life.

stress social support caring cardiovascular disease love warmth health 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda G. Russek
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gary E. Schwartz
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Harvard University Student Health ServiceCambridge
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ArizonaTucson
  3. 3.Departments of Neurology and PsychiatryUniversity of ArizonaTucson

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