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Parental academic involvement in adolescence, academic achievement over the life course and allostatic load in middle age: a prospective population-based cohort study
  1. Hugo Westerlund1,
  2. Per E Gustafsson2,
  3. Töres Theorell1,
  4. Urban Janlert3,
  5. Anne Hammarström2
  1. 1The Division for Epidemiology, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2Family Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  3. 3Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Hugo Westerlund, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm SE-106 91, Sweden; hugo.westerlund{at}stress.su.se

Abstract

Background Parental involvement in their children's studies, particularly in terms of academic socialisation, has been shown to predict academic achievement, and is thus a candidate modifiable factor influencing life course socioeconomic circumstances. Socioeconomic disadvantage is thought to impact on health over the life course partly by allostatic load, that is, cumulative biological risk. We sought to elucidate the role of parental involvement at age 16 on the life course development of allostatic load.

Methods In a population-based cohort (365 women and 352 men, 67% of the eligible participants), we examined the association between parental involvement in their offspring's studies, measured by teacher and pupil ratings at age 16 and an allostatic load index summarising 12 physiological risk markers at age 43. Mediation through life course academic and occupational achievement was assessed by entering school grades, adult educational achievement and socioeconomic position at age 43 in a linear regression analysis in a stepwise manner and testing for mediation.

Results Parental interest in their offspring's studies during the last year of compulsory school—rather than the parent's social class or availability of practical academic support—was found to predict adult allostatic load (β=−0.12, 95% CI −0.20 to −0.05). Further adjustments indicated that academic achievement over the life course mediated a large part of the effect of parental interest on allostatic load.

Conclusions Parental interest in their offspring's studies may have protective effects by decreasing the likelihood of a chain of risk involving low academic achievement, low socioeconomic position and high accumulated physiological stress.

  • Education
  • Social Epidemiology
  • Psychosocial Factors
  • Social Class
  • Stress

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