Advances in Families and Health Research in the 21st Century


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    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.

Department of Sociology and Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, 30 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901 (


We review research on families and health published between 2000 and 2009 and highlight key themes and findings from innovative, methodologically rigorous studies. Whereas research in prior decades focused primarily on whether family structure affects child and adult health, contemporary research examines the contextual and processual factors that shape for whom, for which outcomes, and under what conditions families affect mental and physical health. We discuss how family structure, transitions, and processes within families of origin affect children's health over the life course. We then examine the effects of marital status, transitions, and quality for adult health. We point out limitations in current research, discuss implications of recent findings for policy, and highlight theoretical and methodological directions for future research.