Marital Status and Depressive Symptoms over Time: Modeling the Effects of Status Duration

Tracey A. LaPierre, University of Kansas

This study critically examined the relationship between marital status duration and depressive symptoms by marital status and gender. Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), a variety of empirical specifications of marital status duration were tested to determine the implications of modeling status duration in various ways. Overall, the duration analyses show a ‘crisis’ effect of marital dissolution for both men and women. However, the majority of the adaptation to this new role occurs within the first six months, and persistence in this state over time leads to increases in depressive symptoms after adjustment for widowed men and women and separated/divorced women. Based on the findings in this study it is clear that a single continuous indicator of marital status duration is a misspecification of the effect of marital status duration and results in biased and unstable estimates of marital status differences in depressive symptoms.

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Presented in Session 39: Family and Health over the Life Course