Race, gender, and chains of disadvantage: childhood adversity, social relationships, and health.

Academic Article


  • We use a life course approach to guide an investigation of relationships and health at the nexus of race and gender. We consider childhood as a sensitive period in the life course, during which significant adversity may launch chains of disadvantage in relationships throughout the life course that then have cumulative effects on health over time. Data from a nationally representative panel study (Americans' Changing Lives, N = 3,477) reveal substantial disparities between black and white adults, especially pronounced among men, in the quality of close relationships and in the consequences of these relationships for health. Greater childhood adversity helps to explain why black men have worse health than white men, and some of this effect appears to operate through childhood adversity's enduring influence on relationship strain in adulthood. Stress that occurs in adulthood plays a greater role than childhood adversity in explaining racial disparities in health among women.
  • Published In


  • cumulative disadvantage, health disparities, race, relationships, stress, Adult, Black or African American, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Female, Health Status, Health Surveys, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Middle Aged, Poverty, Risk Factors, Sex Factors, Social Class, Stress, Psychological, Violence, White People
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Umberson D; Williams K; Thomas PA; Liu H; Thomeer MB
  • Start Page

  • 20
  • End Page

  • 38
  • Volume

  • 55
  • Issue

  • 1